Speed-accuracy tradeoff and its relationship to higher-order cognition
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It is a simple idea that there is an adversarial relationship between how quickly one performs an action and how well that action is performed. This phenomenon, known as the speed-accuracy tradeoff (SAT), has received some attention in the literature, notably through modeling work beginning in the 1960’s. However, it has not been measured as a cognitive construct using latent variable analysis, as is common with other constructs such as working memory capacity (WMC), fluid intelligence (Gf), attentional control, task switching, memory updating, and so on. The goal of the present study is to address this gap in the literature. Specifically, I propose that the ability to appropriately implement speed and accuracy across different tasks is an important executive function strongly related to higher-order cognition. I tested this hypothesis by implementing tasks of SAT in a large-scale correlational study involving measures of other constructs, namely WMC and Gf. Results are mixed, there is evidence that SAT can be measured at the latent level and that this construct relates to higher-order cognition. However, the magnitude of this relationship is small, and trial-by-trial analyses suggest that lower ability individuals are also capable of adjusting performance to meet task demands.