What is reaction time?

Reaction time is an important factor for CS:GO players and is often crucial for whether you shoot the enemy or get killed. Reaction time is measured by the time between the presentation of a sensory stimulus and the following response. The stimuli can be visual or auditory. Auditory reaction time is faster than visual because the auditory stimulus travels faster to the brain.

Reaction time can be seen as a physical skill closely related to performance. In CS:GO, you mostly rely on your visual reaction times, so that is what we will be focusing on.

Reaction time process

Let’s walk through the process of what happens in the short time between the stimulus and the response.

  • A stimulus from the screen activates sensory neurons in your eyes
  • The stimulus is converted into an electro-chemical signal
  • The signal travels from the eyes to the brain which takes 20-40 ms
  • The brain processes the information and activates a motor neuron
  •  The motor neuron carries a signal from the brain to the muscles that need to react and respond.

How much does reaction time in CS:GO matter?

How fast you are able to react matters very much in CS:GO. Fast reactions can be the difference between whether you kill the enemy or get killed. But fast reaction times can’t take you to victory alone. Other factors like aim, game sense and communication also have a big influence on the outcome of the game.

Aiming with good crosshair placement lowers the distance you need to move your mouse when seeing an enemy. This makes it easier to react fast because you just need to click the mouse instead of moving the mouse to hit the target. Taking the right decisions at the right moments can set you in situations where you don’t have to rely on your ability to react fast. Good game sense is always preferable to fast reaction times. Great communication and supporting each other as teammates have the power to outplay your opponent.

What is the average human reaction time?

A scientific study investigated reaction time in 1469 persons ranging in age from 18-65 found. They found that the average reaction time was 231 ms (adjusted to 213 ms when corrected for hardware delays). They also found that reaction times slow down with age (0,55 ms/year)
The human benchmark test might have some inaccuracy due to unfocused attempts and low-performing computers which cause the high average.

How to improve reaction time in CS:GO

Is it possible to improve reaction time? Yes, it is very possible, but only to a limited extent.
Let me explain how you can improve your reaction time.

First and foremost, the most important thing is to practice reacting as fast as possible. Either if it is in-game or taking a test. Many factors influence how fast we can react such as age, gender, physical activity, arousal, focus, and energy levels. Some of the factors have a bigger influence than others.

Arousal or the state of attention is one of the most scientifically investigated factors affecting reaction time. Studies show that reaction time is fastest with a moderate level of arousal, equal to when a person is neither too tense nor too relaxed.

Ways to improve reaction time

You can follow some of the below-listed guidelines, to ensure the most optimal level of arousal.

  • Warmup before playing
  • Sleep until you are fully rested
  • Workout and stay active
  • Eat healthy and stay hydrated
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Play on high performance equipment

How to test your reaction time

You can test your reaction time on a site like humanbenchmark.com. Remember to take your computer latency into consideration. You can also test your reaction time without a computer using the ruler drop test. To perform the ruler drop test you need a ruler and a partner.

Ruler drop test instructions

  • Person A holds the ruler with their thumb and first finger
  •  Person B holds their hand with a gap between their thumb and first finger
  • Person A drops the ruler without warning while person A must catch it as fast as possible
  • Use the table below to convert your ruler measurements into reaction time.
  • Repeat multiple times to get an average

How fast can human reaction time possibly be?

Even though science shows we get slower as age goes up, we still have decent possibilities to improve our reaction time. But how fast is possible? The world fastest 100m sprint athletes has recorded reaction time as low as 122 ms. Maybe one day we will see reaction times consistently below 100 ms.

Conscious vs unconscious

Reflexes also called unconscious actions are much faster than conscious actions. It is faster because the signal doesn’t have to go via the brain. For example, moving your hand away from something hot. Unfortunately, we cannot convert the conscious reactions we make in game into reflexes. The stimuli do need to travel through the brain before responding. By practice we can strengthen the neural connections, causing signals to travel faster through the brain and body to make us react faster.

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