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This study investigated within-person variability on basic psychomotor tasks in relation to errors on a higher order cognitive task. We were interested in whether more variable individuals were more prone to making errors, and whether this relationship varied with age. Variability was assessed using simple and choice reaction time, while errors of omission (misses) and commission (false alarms) were obtained from simple and complex visual search tasks. Data from 557 participants aged 18-90 years were included in the analysis. Greater variability was associated with more misses, and distribution analyses showed that slower responses were behind this effect. Variability was also associated with false alarms, but the pattern was inconsistent. Taking age into account revealed that the association between variability and misses in the simple visual search condition was stronger in older (aged 65-90 years) participants. The results suggest the relationship between greater variability and errors of omission (misses) may be related to inattention. Measures of variability may therefore provide valuable insights into individual differences in error rates and, more broadly, may also offer early warning of persons who are more prone to errors in visual search.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)

Publication Date





1722 - 1731


Ageing, Attention, Errors, Reaction time, Within-person variability, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Attention, Cognition, Female, Healthy Volunteers, Humans, Individuality, Male, Middle Aged, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Regression Analysis, Statistics as Topic, Young Adult