[Writing an Inquiry: Framing the Question]

Background Information

Example #1

Background Information:

It's lunch time. A freshman just spilt his soda all over a senior by mistake. The senior doesn't care whether or not it was by mistke though. All he knows is that his white shirt now has coke all over it. The senior pulls back his fist. The freshman flinches, but he is unaware of the action. Now let's leave this scene and skip to another. A junior in foods class has been talking to a bunch of friends when she accidentlally places her hand on a still-hot burner. She pulls back her hand and yells "Ouch!".

In both cases, the person was unaware that they even moved until after they did it. This is because both movements were actions called reflexes. Reflexes occur when something, like a fist or hot burner, puts the body into a risk situation. Then your body reacts to this situation by flinching or pulling back a body part. But let's take this a step further.

The reason why your body reacts before you know it is because if you had to think about reacting to a harmful situation before reacting, you could already be injured. So your body comes equipped with little "mini-brains" in your spinal column known as ganglia which help make reaction times faster. So this way, when you place your hand on a burner, the nerves just have to carry the pain signal to this "mini-brain", and then have to carry it back to the part of your body which needs to react. By the way, this pathway of nerves from the hand to the ganglia/ "mini-brain" and back down nerves to the muscles of the hand are known as a reflex arc. Your body has many such reflex arcs to help make reactions near instantaneous! Input to your sensory nerves is known as a stimulus, while the reaction to the stimulus is known as the response.

At the same time, another nerve sends the signal to the brain to let you know about the situation. This is a lot faster than having to send the pain sensation up the nerves to the "mini-brain" and then up to the brain where the message is processed, and then having the reaction sent back down to the "mini-brain" and back down to the arm to the hand where the body can finally move the hand out of harm's way.

With me so far?........Good!

Question & Hypothesis:

In this inquiry, I want to find an answer to one question: "How do distractions affect reaction times in comparison to non-distracted times?"


I believe that the non-distracted reaction times will be less than the distraction reaction times. From personal experience, this seems reasonable because car accidents are more likely to occur when a person is distracted because they tend to have slower distraction times. If a person is talking to a friend on a cell phone, they are receiving stimuli, processing it, and reacting to it. In this case they are concentrating on what their friend is saying, then thinking about what they say, and then as a response, we speak. Because we are concentrating on listening and processing what our friend is saying, it is harder for stimuli from our other senses to break in and be noticed!

For our experiment, we will be trying to catch a meter stick under 2 conditions. The first is the non-distracted. The second condition will be the distracted set-up, in which we will be counting bacwards from 50 in a foreign language. We should catch the meter stick faster when non-distracted than when distracted, while trying to count backwards in our foreign language. Since we aren't real familiar with counting backwards in a foreign language, we will be distracted and not catch the meter stick as fast.