The normal reaction time, like most other things about the human body, is not constant. It differs from person to person and also depends on what sensory regime the stimulus belongs to.
Here’s a generalized estimate of average reaction time for various stimuli:
- Average visual reaction time is 0.25 seconds.
- Reaction time for audio stimuli is 0.17 seconds.
- The average reaction time for kinesthetic (touch) stimuli is 0.15 seconds.
That was the mathematical part of reaction time, but what about the physiological aspect? Let’s see.
What is average reaction time?
Reaction time, in the simplest words, is the time it takes to detect a stimulus and respond to it. However, it is not to be confused with reflexes.
Difference between reaction time and reflexes
Here’s an example of both.
Imagine you are using your phone, standing next to hot iron. You move your hand to pick up a glass of water placed next to the iron, and you touch the iron instead. Your hand will instantly retract, even before you feel the heat.
It is a reflex.
Reflex actions are not controlled by the brain. It’s the spinal cord that orders your hand to be retracted. It is because if this decision is to be made by the brain, it will take a longer time, increasing your chances of sustaining damage.
For an example of reaction time, imagine you are on a dark street in the middle of the night, and a dog comes out of nowhere and starts barking at you. Your brain will take a little bit of time to decide the course of action; run or fight the dog.
The time to make that decision is the reaction time.
To sum up
To sum up, reaction time is involved when you do something voluntarily. And if you do something involuntarily, it’s a reflex action and has nothing to do with reaction time.