Skill Aquisition: factors influencing reaction time



So this post is going to be about all of the effects that influences reaction time. As mentioned in the information processing models, when you conduct a skill you have to make a decision, when doing this you will also need to time the action in relation to a stimuli you are taking and that is where reaction times come into place, therefore the more decisions you have, the longer the process will take, this is important as the quicker you react to something, usually the better the outcome you have in certain circumstances, using the skill i taught my client in my sessions, i identified many of the stimuli’s that you look for when you decide what way to go after doing a step over, such as the judging when the player is going to challenge you, the stimuli that will affect the reaction time would be the very first movement of the opponents foot, the sooner you do the step over after the stimuli the more time you have to choose what way you have by watching the opponents body position.

firstly i want to start about saying what exactly is reaction time, Reaction time is the time it takes you to complete a task from the very first stimuli to the very start of the action, for example in the 100m sprint, the stimuli is the sound of the starting gun, and the start of the action is the very first muscle that moves for you to get up of the block.

there are many things that you can relate to reaction time and they are:

  • detecting a cue: this is where we see something that makes us do the reaction, such as a free kick, you wait for the referee to whilstle before you take it, but you also dont make the run attacking run until the taker is running up.
  • detecting related cues: this is where you are watching someone or somethings and you percieve something to happen, such as watching a defenders feet to see what way they are going to challenge for the ball.

Hicks law

hicks law explains that where there is a decision to be made, the amount of decisions available for that person will effect there reaction times, for example, the more decisions an individual has to choose from, the more information you have to think about

Hicks law graph of stimuli to response time

A good example of this is when watching a football match and a winger had made it up to the touchline, once they are there they usually stop and weigh-up there next option such as do they take the man on, do they cross the ball in, do they come back and play patient or do they pass the ball, therefore this will take the player longer to come up with the decision, if i use the same example, but put a different background to it, such as if the player ran past there player and had acre’s of space to run into then the winger would carry on running and cross the ball in if he was near the sideline, or if he ran towards goal he would shoot.

factors that influence reaction times

There are a whole lot of factors that effect your reaction times, first is hicks law which i have explained above, secondly is your age, next is your gender, then the intensity of the stimuli, anticipation and experience.

Age is a factor that effects the reaction times of an individual, this is because as we progress in life, starting from our childhood, our reaction times are being formed by our everyday activities and then even further when we enter our adulthood, until we hit our limit in how far it can develop which is individual to each other, our reaction times start to deteriorate as the body is working slower and less efficient.

gender is a factor that effects reaction time as both genders have there differences, however a male has a better reaction time in comparison to female, but a males reaction time will deteriorate at a faster rate.

the intensity of the stimuli is a factor that effects reaction time as the intensity of the stimuli determines how much information you take in and use, the more intense the stimuli the more information will take in that is relevant to the situation and the less intense the more irrelevant information you will take in.

anticipation is a factor that effects reaction time as when you perceive something to happen you are already making a plan of what you are going to do and you instinctively do that due to pre determining a stimuli such as when running towards an opponent and you take a heavy touch that creates a 50/50 chance of retrieving the ball, you can perceive that the opponent is going to slide in to get the ball first therefore you have anticipated that thy will slide in and you will instinctively decide what to do such as to slide in, or try and nip the ball first and take it around the challenge.

experience is a factor that effects reaction time as someone who does the same skill whenever playing sport will have developed a natural routine when doing the skill and therefore will become more efficient and faster when performing that skill. for example in football when passing to another player you will firstly take in the environment such as the team-mates, the opponents and the position you are on the pitch before you choose what action you will take.


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