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How the West was Won: Reactive Vs. Intentional Movements


Welchman,  AE
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Welchman, A. (2004). How the West was Won: Reactive Vs. Intentional Movements. Poster presented at 7th Tübingen Perception Conference (TWK 2004), Tübingen, Germany.

In the Wild West, legend has it that the guy who draws his gun rst is the one who gets shot. The idea behind this is that intentional actions are slower to execute than reactive actions. To see if there is any truth in this notion we staged mock duels in the laboratory. Initially 12 observers were trained to make a speeded sequence of button presses for three keys located in front of them. After subjects had become procient at the task (40 minutes training), we paired them up and they dueled against each other. The two subjects in a duel had different roles: one was the initiator and the other the reactor. A computer randomly determined which subject was the initiator on every trial. Initiators were free to start their movement sequence when they wanted. Subjects played against each other to be rst to complete the movement sequence. The rst person to complete the sequence scored points off the other player. Reactors rarely beat initiators (i.e. reactors normally got shot); however, the within-subject analysis of movement times made when the subject was the reactor versus the initiator suggested an average of a 20ms advantage for reactive movements. These preliminary results suggest that even though the guy who draws second gets shot, reactive movements may be faster than intentional ones.