Speeded response tasks with unpredictable deadlines

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In response time (RT) research, it is common to instruct participants to respond as fast and as accurately as possible, which is easily conceived as a contradiction. Participants may overcome this dilemma using a two-fold strategy, with (A) delaying their response until they feel confident that enough information has been sampled, and (B) scheduling the response right before the end of the response window to avoid omissions. The purpose of this strategy is to satisfy the contradictory requirements of the task instructions, but both (A) and (B) may yield a distorted picture of the processing times under investigation. We asked participants to discriminate random dot motion with fixed and variable deadlines for responding. With the exponentially distributed variable deadline, strategic responding is useless because it is impossible to schedule an optimal time point for the response. We present two analyses, a model-free approach that investigates the effect of an unpredictable deadline on standard RT measures, and the fit of an RT model testing for effects of the deadline on specific parameters. Compared to the fixed deadline, faster responses that were less variable across participants were observed under the variable deadline, suggesting that the new paradigm can reduce strategic responding. We demonstrate how to deal with omitted responses and conclude that variable deadlines are a promising tool to exert time pressure in RT experiments and potentially yield better estimates of the underlying processing times.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102776
JournalJournal of Mathematical Psychology
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 346594316