Reactions are an important to everyday activities. In the simplest means they are a reflexive behavior that we use to protect ourselves. Using one of our senses to initiate a response to a stimulus without having to think about what response is necessary. Thus, they allow for many different automatic behaviors that happen without us having to even think. But what makes reactions different from reflexes?
While both are not controllable, reactions are things that can be changed by learning. If we think about it, when you get our reflexes tested every time we go to the doctor for a physical exam. These are done when the doctor hits out knees or elbows with a reflex hammer. But we cannot learn how to control the response to test. The reflex just happens. This is different from the concept of reactions.
A reaction is a reflex however, unlike the reflex that is tested by the doctor, reactions are specific action made in response to a specific stimulus.
But how can we safely test our reactions? We can't safely throw things at each other in a manner that is reproducible between tests. We can’t use a starter’s pistol at school. We can’t bring in dishes and drop them to see if you can catch them before they hit the floor in a manner that is reproducible. However, we can use the same force that allows a plate to fall to the floor to drop another object in a manner that is reproducible. In this test uses the known properties of gravity to determine how long it takes a person to respond to the dropping of a meter-stick, by measuring how far the meter-stick can falls before being caught.
Doing such a test will measure the reaction time of the signal (falling of the meter-stick) to reaction (catching the meter-stick). This is a test of hand-eye reaction, something similar to skills that are necessary for a baseball, football, or video-game player. Not only will we test the hand-eye reactions of the person, but also we will see how anticipation can lead to faster reactions and how learning changes the reaction times for everyone. Thus the purpose of the experiment is to measure reaction time, test anticipation and as a side test, measure a person’s hand-eye coordination.