Inconsistency in Reaction Time Across the Life Span

Neuropsychology. 2005 Jan;19(1):88-96. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.19.1.88.


Inconsistency in latency across trials of 2-choice reaction time data was analyzed in 273 participants ranging in age from 6 to 81 years. A U-shaped curve defined the relationship between age and inconsistency, with increases in age associated with lower inconsistency throughout childhood and higher inconsistency throughout adulthood. Differences in inconsistency were independent of practice, fatigue, and age-related differences in mean level of performance. Evidence for general and specific variability-producing processes was found in those aged less than 21 years, whereas only a specific process, such as attentional blocks, was evident for those 21 years and older. The findings highlight the importance of considering moment-to-moment changes in performance in psychological research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Child
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis