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Texting Versus Talking: The Effects of Cell Phones on Reaction Time

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Author: Megan Doyle

Grade Level: 9th to 12th; Type: Social Science

Objective:

This experiment will evaluate which type of cell phone usage has the most impact on reaction time.

Research Questions:

  • How does talking on a cell phone influence reaction time?
  • How does texting affect reaction time?

Texting and talking on cell phones distract users and can lead to injuries while walking and driving. This experiment will evaluate how these two types of cell phone usage influence reaction time. Is texting more dangerous?

Materials:

  • Calculator
  • Meter stick
  • Blindfold
  • Test subjects with cell phones (approximately 10 males and 10 females)
  • Notebook for recording results

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Place your thumb and index finger above the 100 centimeter mark on the meter stick. For each test subject, perform the following steps:
  2. Ask the test subject to place his or her thumb and forefinger on either side of the meter stick at the 0 centimeter mark. When you drop the stick, the test subject will attempt to catch it by closing his or her thumb and forefinger.
  3. Test baseline reaction time first. Drop the meter stick and record the distance (in centimeters) that the stick falls before the test subject is able to stop it.
  4. Perform five trials and calculate the average score.
  5. Repeat the test. This time, ask the test subject to speak to someone on a cell phone while you conduct the experiment.
  6. Perform five trials and calculate the average score.
  7. Repeat the test. This time ask the test subject to send a text message (with one hand) while you conduct the experiment.
  8. Perform five trials and calculate the average score.
  9. Repeat steps 2-8 for many male and female test subjects.
  10. Evaluate your data and calculate each participant’s average reaction time for each experiment. Use the formula: d=0.5a*t2 Solve for t when d equals distance traveled by the meter stick and a equals the acceleration due to gravity constant (9.8 meters per second squared).
  11. Evaluate your results. Which type of cell phone usage affects reaction time most? How much is reaction time changed by texting? By talking?

Terms/Concepts: cell phones and reaction time

Reference: Life Responds: Reaction Time Experiment

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