Haste makes waste, but not if you're neurotic

Posted on November 28, 2013

The faster people do things, the more mistakes they make. Also known as the speed-accuracy trade-off, this rule is considered by many fundamental to human behaviour. Not so, according to sports psychologist James Bell and his colleagues. They've authored a new paper that suggests people who score higher on the personality trait of neuroticism make more accurate judgments the faster they respond.

One hundred and ninety-six teenage male cricketers, all members of regional academies, took part in the study. They watched six clips of footage recorded from behind bowlers during the Twenty20 World Cup in England in 2009. Just as the bowler released the ball, each clip was frozen and remained visible for half a second - the approximate amount of time that a batsman has to decide how to react to a delivery.

The key finding is that for low scorers on neuroticism, the more quickly they responded on average, the poorer their judgments tended to be, yet for high scorers on neuroticism the opposite was true. "The most parsimonious explanation," the researchers said, "… is that individuals with high levels of neuroticism tend to have a stimulus-driven attentional orientation, which means they are likely to react automatically to environmental stimuli (particularly if it is threat related) resulting in faster and more accurate responses in the context of the current task."

Source material from British Psychological Society