Comparison of perceptual and motor latencies via anticipatory and reactive response times

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2009 Jan;71(1):82-94. doi: 10.3758/APP.71.1.82.


To compare the timing of perceptual and motor decisions, distinct tasks have been designed, all of which have yielded systematic differences between these two moments. These observations have been taken as evidence of a sensorimotor dissociation. Inasmuch as the distinction between perceptual and motor decision moments is conceptually warranted, this conclusion remains debatable, since the observed differences may reflect the dissimilarity between the stimulations/tasks used to assess them. Here, we minimize such dissimilarities by comparing response time (RT) and anticipatory RT (ART), an alternative technique with which to infer the relative perceptual decision moments. Observers pressed a key either in synchrony with the third of a sequence of three stimuli appearing at a constant pace (ART) or in response to the onset of this third stimulus presented at a random interval after the second (RT). Hence, the two stimulation sequences were virtually identical. Both the mean and the variance of RT were affected by stimulus intensity about 1.5 times more than were the mean and the variance of ART. Within the framework of two simple integration-to-bound models, these findings are compatible with the hypothesis that perceptual and motor decisions operate on the same internal signal but are based on distinct criteria, with the perceptual criterion lower than the motor one.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association Learning
  • Attention*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Orientation*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*