Using Arduino microcontroller boards to measure response latencies
Latencies of buttonpresses are a staple of cognitive science paradigms. Often keyboards are employed to collect buttonpresses, but their imprecision and variability decreases test power and increases the risk of false positives. Response boxes and data acquisition cards are precise, but expensive and inflexible, alternatives. We propose using open-source Arduino microcontroller boards as an inexpensive and flexible alternative. These boards connect to standard experimental software using a USB connection and a virtual serial port, or by emulating a keyboard. In our solution, an Arduino measures response latencies after being signaled the start of a trial, and communicates the latency and response back to the PC over a USB connection. We demonstrated the reliability, robustness, and precision of this communication in six studies. Test measures confirmed that the error added to the measurement had an SD of less than 1 ms. Alternatively, emulation of a keyboard results in similarly precise measurement. The Arduino performs as well as a serial response box, and better than a keyboard. In addition, our setup allows for the flexible integration of other sensors, and even actuators, to extend the cognitive science toolbox.
Behavior Research Methods, 2013, DOI 10.3758/s13428-013-0336-z