Perera Reaction timing instrumentation

Paper presented in a symposium at the 1999 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Providence, RI.

Chaired by Dr. Haupt and entitled (il Simposio?): The Muller - Wundt Controversy over the Measurement of Reaction Time.

 

 

OUTLINE (Sommario):

 

QUOTATION FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF BELGRADE COLLECTION BOOK

Appropriate because of the current bombing of Belgrade

BUILDING MUSEUMS ON THE INTERNET:

Montclair State University Web Museum

Barnard Web Museum

Barnard Hipp

THE HIPP CHORONOSCOPES

Variations

Hipp Reaction Time Setup

Hipp Operation

Tuning Fork Escapement - Problems

Start and Stop Solenoids - Problems

THE WET BATTERY INSTABILITY

CALIBRATION OF THE HIPP

Control Hammer

Contact Pendulum

IMPROVEMENTS AND CHANGES IN THE HIPP DESIGN

Amerika Chronoscope

D'Arsonoval Chronoscope

Dunlap Chronoscope

Springfield Timer

CHRONO 'GRAPHS'

Smoked-drum / tuning fork

Phonograph Chronograph

PENDULUM CHRONOSCOPES

Barnard Pendulum Chronoscope

Vernier Chronoscope

GALVANOMETER CHRONOSCOPE

THE HUMAN FACTOR

Cattell with Wundt

Cattell at Columbia

THE COLUMBIA PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT

Keller's Introductory Classes

Emphasis on wiring diagrams

Knowledge of electronics

Knowledge of Army Surplus

Brenner's Shop

German Precision

Brenner Label

FINAL SOLUTIONS TO THE TIMING PROBLEM

Atomic Counter

Quartz Crystal Oscillator

Accurate Timer

Expensive

Hard to Interface

Hunter Timers

DISTRIBUTE BIBLIOGRAPHY..........

DEMONSTRATION OF:

Battery

Hipp Chronoscope

Pendulum Chronoscope

Vernier Chronoscope

 

APPROXIMATE TEXT OF PAPER:

PSYCHOLOGICAL REACTION TIMING 4-17-99

Copyright (c) 1999 Thomas Perera Ph. D.

Draft of paper for EPA presentation, April 17, 1999

 

I would like to start out by reading an adaptation of the introduction to the magnificent book: Sense, Mind, and Measure: The Collection of Old Scientific Instruments of the laboratory for Experimental Psychology, University of Belgrade. by Aleksandear Kostic and Dejan Todorovic. I do this in recognition of the danger to both of them and to the extraordinary collection which they have put together in the face of the current bombing of their city. We can only hope that they and their collection will be spared.

They write:

"The Methods and spirit of Wundt's Laboratory were spread by many renowned European and American Psychologists. It is through an understanding of the methodology of Wundt's Laboratory that we can gain an insight into the development of Experimental Psychology itself."

"The Psychological instruments which were the last word in technology have vanished from modern psychological laboratories. After multiple rennovations and house cleanings, most modern laboratories show no signs of any of the early apparatus."

"I do regret that we have replaced that bountiful variety of switches, outlets, dials, wires, rods, tubes, supports, motors, threads, pens, those often imaginitive forms made of brass, wood, glass, rubber, plastic, and what-not for the boring monotony of computer screens and keyboards."

"That is why we have worked so hard to preserve and restore the psychological apparatus in our museum."

 

(THE CAPITALIZED HEADINGS ARE THE SLIDES WHICH I PRESENTED)

 

MONTCLAIR WEB MUSEUM HIPP CHRONOSCOPE IN ZIMMERMAN CATALOG;

Lacking the wealth of original instruments in the University of Belgrade collection, Dr. Haupt and I have set up an internet: Museum of the History of Psychological Instrumentation at Montclair State University which displays hundreds of pictures and descriptions of early apparatus. It is an evolving museum which currently shows the apparatus as displayed in the 1909 Zimmerman Catalog of Psychological Research Instruments. Zimmerman was the machinist and mechanic who made the apparatus for Wundt's laboratory and then went on to run the company which carried his name and which sold a wide variety of research apparatus. Dr. Haupt has laboriously translated the description of every piece of apparatus into English and we have made this resource available on the internet. The address of this and other internet sites as well as the titles of relevant books and articles are contained in a handout which is being circulated to all of you in attendance.

 

BARNARD WEB HIPP

I have been searching out and restoring some of the earliest research apparatus from the forgotten storerooms of Barnard College of Columbia University and I have made photographs and descriptions of the various instruments accessible to everyone on the internet as the "Barnard College History of Psychology Collection".

BARNARD HIPP

Barnard's most prized exhibit is this wonderful Hipp Chronoscope. It was used at Barnard College and I have brought it back to working condition by cleaning all the gears and bearings, and readjusting the mechanism. I am going to use slides to illustrate my talk about the Hipp and other timing devices and then I will demonstrate each piece of apparatus and give you a chance to see it in action and actually measure your reaction time with it.

** HIPP TYPES & OPERATION

 

EUROPEAN HIPP

TORONTO WEB HIPP: GLASS DOME, HIGH STAND

WOODEN COVERED PENNSYLVANIA HIPP

WOODEN COVERED MECHANISM

 

There were many primarily cosmetic refinements of the Hipp Chronoscope and in its direct descendants as shown in these slides during it's 100 year production from the 1840's to the 1940's.

 

HIPP SETUP: WORD STIMULUS, VOICE RESPONSE

 

Here is a complete early reaction time experimental setup. A word stimulus is suddenly exposed and the subject responds by speaking loudly at this electromechanical voice key. The Hipp does the timing.

 

HIPP FRONT VIEW

 

Let me describe the operation of the Hipp and the intracacies of its mechanism. This front view shows the two dials. The upper one reads in milliseconds and the lower one increments one step for each (100ms) complete revolution of the upper dial. The mechanism is powered by a heavy weight which hangs down below the mechanism.

 

START KEY

START AND STOP LEVERS

 

Some Hipp Chronoscopes were equipped with a key to start the mechanism as shown here. Others such as the Barnard Hipp which I will be demonstrating are started by simply pulling on a string. The string pulls the start lever and gives one of the gears a real kick-start which overcomes the resistance of the vibrating tuning fork escapement and starts it oscillating.

 

CLOSE-UP OF TUNING FORK ESCAPEMENT:

The tuning fork escapement had to oscillate at 1000 Hz and this required a very delicate adjustment as you will hear when I demonstrate it. All too easily, the frequency could shift to 500 Hz and the experimenter had to be constantly on guard to listen for this event and discard affected trials. This was one of the more easily managed sources of timing error with the Hipp Chronoscopes.

 

START AND STOP SOLENOIDS

CLUTCH CLOSE-UP

PULL-IN / RELEASE TENSION SPRING FINE ADJUSTMENT DIAL

PULL-IN / RELEASE KYMOGRAPHIC TRACINGS

 

The major problem affecting accuracy came from the need to exactly equalize the rise and fall times of the start and stop solenoids. These solenoids moved this tiny bar from the stationary clutch face to the moving clutch face and back again. Adjustments were made by varying the return-spring tension using these fine calibrated settings.

Keeping the Hipp calibrated was a tedious and difficult task. Due to variations in the above parameters and in the wet batteries used to power the solenoids, it was necessary to calibrate the Hipp every 20 or 30 trials.

 

 

THE "CROW'S FOOT WET BATTERY

The batteries consisted of Zinc and Copper electrodes immersed in a solution of copper sulfate. I have one such battery for you to inspect up here at the front of the room. Changes in room temperature, electrolyte concentration, and deposits on the electrodes caused the voltage and current output of the batteries to vary widely.

 

** CALIBRATION OF THE HIPP

 

CONTROL HAMMER

TORONTO CONTROL HAMMER OFF WEB

The device which was used most frequently for calibrating the Hipp Chronoscope was the Control Hammer. The Control Hammer provided an accurate and repeatable set of contact-closures as a hammer literally fell past the electrical contacts. Due to limitations of size, it could only be used to calibrate time intervals up to 160 ms.

CONTACT PENDULUM CALIBRATOR

The Contact Pendulum was a second device used for calibrating chronoscopes and chronographs for longer time intervals than 160ms. It was capable of generating accurate signals separated by up to 2.5 seconds. Its operation was based on the constant oscillation period of a pendulum of known length. Dr. Galanter reports that at Pennsylvania, the pendulum itself had to be calibrated daily to compensate for changes in the room temperature which changed the length of the swinging arm.

The Hipp continued to be used for 100 years but improvements were made and the improved instruments found their way into psychological research labs as their finances allowed.

FURTHER EVOLUTION OF THE HIPP

AMERIKA CHRONOSCOPE

The first improvement was to replace the weight-driven mechanism with a wind-up spring driven mechanism while retaining the 1000 Hz tuning fork escapement.

D'ARSONOVAL CHRONOSCOPE

Next, a Foucault swinging weight governor was used to regulate the speed of the spring-driven mechanism. This produced a device called the D'Arsonoval Chronoscope.

DUNLAP CHRONOSCOPE

The next evolutionary step in chronoscope design was the Dunlap or John's Hopkins Chronoscope which used a synchronous electric motor which synchronized itself to the pulses produced by a tuning-fork oscillator.

DUNLAP CHRONOSCOPE IN EXPERIMENTAL SETUP

In this slide you can see a complete reaction time setup with the tuning fork that drove the Dunlap Chronoscope over on the right. Professor Galanter was responsible for such a Dunlap Chronoscope at Pennsylvania and reports that it sometimes took hundreds of spins to get the thing to synchronize with the tuning fork pulses and start to run. He likened it to trying to start a Model T Ford Automobile on a below-freezing day.

SPRINGFIELD TIMER

Finally, the Springfield Electric Company began producing the Standard Electric Timer which is still being sold. It was/is a Hipp-like mechanism with a constantly running synchronous electric motor which derived its extreme accuracy from the stability of the 60 Hz line voltages.

INSIDE A SPRINGFIELD TIMER

The electrically-operated clutch mechanism simply freed-up or stopped a wheel which was constantly trying to rotate as a result of the constantly-running electric motor. This mechanism was therefore very similar to the original Hipp mechanism.

Electronic counters eventually replaced the electromechanical Springfield timers and brought us orders of magnitude better accuracy.

 

** CHRONO 'GRAPHS'

PICTURE OF CHRONOGRAPH & HIPP

ELECTRICAL TUNING FORK AND SINE WAVE TRACING ON SMOKED DRUM

 

ChronoGRAPHS which wrote a tuning-fork produced stream of timing oscillations on a black smoked sheet of paper and imposed start and stop signals on the oscillations were introduced in the same time frame as the Hipp. They provided reliability and high degrees of accuracy but were extremely tedious to use because of the need to count each of the 1000 oscillations-per-second marks in a measured time interval. Because of this, 50, 100, and 200 Hz models were common.

PHONOGRAPH CHRONOGRAPH

For psychology departments that didn't have the money to buy the expensive Hipp Chronoscopes or Kymographic Chronographs, equipment manufacturers made devices that converted a standard phonograph into a chronograph.

** PENDULUM CHRONOSCOPES

WEB BARNARD PENDULUM

This is a very early reacton timer. Presenting the visual stimulus also releases a pendulum which swings along a calibrated scale until the subject stops it by pressing this bar which pinches the pendulum and brings it to a stop.

BARNARD PENDULUM STIMULUS / TRIGGER

BARNARD PENDULUM HAND - CALIBRATED SCALE

BARNARD PENDULUM ADDED-ON SOLENOID ELECTROMAGNETIC STOP

 

As you can see the pendulum apparatus was modified by the addition of electromagnets to allow electrical signals to instantaneously stop it's swing.

 

WEB BARNARD VERNIER CHRONOSCOPE

CLOSE-UP OF EXPERIMENTER'S AND SUBJECT'S FINGERS ON KEYS

Another pendulum based mechanism was this vernier chronoscope. The two pendulums are set to slightly different lengths using a calibration rod which precisely positions each one at the proper length. One has an oscillation period of .80 sec and one has a period of .78 sec. The experimenter presses a button which starts the left one swinging and this is the stimulus to which the subject responds by pressing a button and releasing the second pendulum. The experimenter then counts the number of swings before they become synchronized and this number gives the number of 1/50'ths or .02's of a second that the two start times differ from each other.

** THE GALVANOMETER CHRONOSCOPE

MIRROR GALVANOMETER CHRONOSCOPE

Another type of chronoscope was made from a mirror galvanometer. It was appropriate only for very brief time intervals. An electrical voltage was impressed on a sensitive mirror galvanometer

when the stimulus was presented. The galvanometer began to swing and to move a reflected beam of light. When the subject responded, the galvanometer decellerated and the position that the beam of light reached at the point of reversal of direction gave an accurate indication of the duration of the voltage from stimulus onset to response onset.

** THE HUMAN FACTOR IN REACTION TIME RESEARCH

CATTELL AND WUNDT

Finally, I would like to mention an all-but-forgotten aspect of improving accuracy in reaction time research. Clearly, the most accurate reaction timing devices are irrelevant if the subject daydreams, slouches, fidgets, and dozes during the experiment. Every fidget increases the variability of the individual reaction times. A highly trained and motivated subject, then, may be as important as the

refinements in instrumentation accuracy.

Cattell, shown standing on the right started out as a student of Wundt's in the 1880's and gradually set out on his own to bring accurate reaction time research to the United States, first at Pennsylvania in 1887 and then at Columbia in 1890.

As a young man, he dedicated himself to becoming a 'professional' reaction time subject. In the same manner as an olympic athlete trains for the olympics, Cattell trained for his research sessions.

He insisted that "inexperienced persons, children, or the insane be barred from participation." Cattell followed a strict and repetitive personal schedule from day to day consisting of constant exercise, personal discipline, and planned repetitiveness.

PORTRAIT OF A MUCH OLDER CATTELL

In this portrait which hangs in the Psychology Department at Columbia, you can see a man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of accuracy and consistancy in research.

 

** THE TRADITION OF TECHNICAL PRECISION AT COLUMBIA

KELLER'S INTRODUCTORY CLASS

At Columbia, I was recruited from Fred Keller's Introductory Psychology Class to work as a lab assistant as soon as they discovered that I had started out as an Electrical Engineer and that I was a ham radio operator who knew how to buy and use Army Surplus Electronics.

These electronic counters could be bought for a small fraction of their original cost either directly from the Government or from Radio Row in New York City, a dilapidated series of surplus stores which, sadly, were torn down to allow the construction of the world trade center.

In those days, one's skills in electronics, mechanical construction, draftsmanship, and photography were as revered as one's knowledge of psychology. Notice that the left side of the blackboard is filled with cumulative record graphs and the right side has a complex electrical wiring diagram...

At Columbia we had a wonderfully-equipped machine shop which was presided over (Or maybe I should say RULED) by Bob Brenner, a German Machinist who had been chief engineer on a German U-boat during WW-2. He often regaled us with stories of, for instance, turning down the

diameter of the propellor shaft while under weigh to allow the installation of undersize shaft seals and stop a leak. (These skills might account for the survival of his U-boat in a war where most were lost.

He brought these skills and the associated Helmholtz, Muller tradition of "PRECISE" German workmanship to Columbia and made all of our research and instructional apparatus with near-zero tolerances. He even signed his work with an engraved label shown here.

BRENNER LABEL

Prone to screaming outbursts of rage at our ineptitude with 'HIS' lathes, he terrified both students and faculty alike into emulating his obsession with precision and accuracy.

 

** FINAL SOLUTIONS TO THE TIMING PROBLEM

When I entered the field of psychology over 40 years ago, the issues surrounding accurate timing had finally been solved.

Ten years earlier, the development of the Atomic Bomb for WW-2 had required the development of high speed electronic counting circuits capable of capturing and counting the brief and rapid emissions of radioactive particles at rates of up to 100,000 events per-second.

DECADE COUNTER SYSTEM

Still earlier, in the 1920's, radio engineers had discovered that quartz crystals could be made to oscillate at extremely stable frequencies of 100,000 cycles per second and higher.

 

CRYSTAL OSCILLATOR

When the 100,000 cycles-per-second crystal oscillator was fed into a high speed counter, it became a clock which counted time in super-accurate steps of 1/100,000 of a second. (A hundredth of a

millisecond.) For measuring reaction times, all that remained was to turn on the clock when the stimulus was presented, and turn it off when the response occurred.

 

ELECTRONIC DECADE TIMER - PRINTER ATTACHED

One problem with these new counter/timers was that they were extremely expensive. This is the first timer brought into the University of Pennsylvania Psychology Lab. Dr. Galanter recalls that it took a plea to the president of the University to buy it and its associated printer.

Another problem was that psychologists had no training in electronics and found it extremely difficult to interface the electromechanical relay programming equipment they had been using with the delicate high rise-time high-impedance pulse requirements of the electronic circuits.

LATER STYLE ELECTRONIC TIMER

EARLY HUNTER TIMER

LATER HUNTER KLOCK-COUNTER TIMER

These devices eliminated the early problems with reaction timing and allowed precise and repeatable measurements.

DISTRIBUTE THE BIBLIOGRAPHY AND WEB SITE LISTING

 

DEMONSTRATION OF BATTERY

DEMONSTGRATION OF HIPP CHRONOSCOPE

DEMONSTRATION OF PENDULUM CHRONOSCOPE

DEMONSTRATION OF VERNIER CHRONOSCOPE

 

THE BARNARD COLLEGE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY COLLECTION.

This collection consists of color photographs and descriptions of major early psychological research instruments.