Have you ever played baseball and had a line drive hit right at you? Your ability to catch the ball largely depends on your reaction time. Reaction time is how fast or slow your body reacts to a stimuli such as a ball being hit at you, a starting gun in a race, or something darting in front of you while you are driving. It is a very important concept and a very complex biological process.
Between the time our body detects a stimuli, such as a baseball coming at you, and the time it reacts with some type of physical response, a lot goes on in our bodies. When the eye sees the baseball, it sends a message to the visual cortex. The visual cortex, then, sends a message to the motor cortex to initiate catching the ball or moving out of the way. The motor cortex sends a message to the spinal cord, which then sends a message to the muscles in the arm and hand to move.
Reaction Time Experiment
We can test the time it takes for our bodies to react to stimuli with this simple reaction time experiment. I’ve prepared a printable download to help record and analyze your data. (download instructions at the end of the post)
meter stick or ruler
reaction time chart
1. Have your partner sit in a sturdy chair with their forearm extending over the edge of the table. Your partner’s job is to catch a dropped ruler between their thumb and forefinger.
2. Hold the zero line of the ruler or meter stick at the top of your partner’s thumb and forefinger.
3. Drop the ruler and have your partner catch it as fast as they can.
4. Record the measurement on the ruler just above the fingers.
5. Repeat 2 or three more times and record your results.
6. Use the reaction time table on the printable to determine the reaction time of each drop, then determine the average.
Have your partner close their eyes. Instead of watching for the ruler to drop with their eyes, have them listen for you to say “Drop!” and then try to catch the ruler. Be sure to say “drop” at the exact time you let go of the ruler. Compare the visual reaction times to the auditory.
Reaction Time Experiment Printable
Just enter your email below and I’ll email you a download link to your free Reaction Time Experiment Printable with instructions, data sheet, and reaction time table!