Age and simple reaction time: decade differences for 5,325 subjects

J Gerontol. 1989 Mar;44(2):P29-35. doi: 10.1093/geronj/44.2.p29.


In a booth at a public exhibition entitled "Medicines for Man," 5,325 men, women, and children carried out a 1-minute test of simple reaction time (RT) with 1 to 10 second randomized variable preparatory interval (PI). They recorded their ages by decade. Average RT over the last eight (of ten) trials increased progressively from the 20s up to age 60 and over, and downward to the teens and under 10s. The single fastest RT in each test varied much less with age, only the 20s being clearly faster than the rest, with the under 10s slower. Within-subject variability of RT was increased only in the under 10s and over 60s. Ability to sustain attention during the longer PIs may underlie the gross average RT differences with age, and possibly some more basic neural property the superiority of the 20s in fastest RT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests / instrumentation
  • Reaction Time / physiology*