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Digital Pen Study

Age differences in pencil and paper-based tests of perceptual speed: Analysis of answering processes using diffusion models and digital ballpoint-pens

Project Description

Perceptual speed is one of the most important constructs of ability in cognitive age research. In addition to computer-based tasks, pencil and paper-based tests of perceptual speed are still frequently used in age research, because to a certain degree they represent a time-efficient standard for assessing general cognitive capacities. Modelling answering processes for such tests was impossible as yet because the time on task for individual items could not be assessed, just the total number of correct answers given within a prescribed period of time. The use of digital ballpoint-pens has fundamentally changed how process data can be assessed in pencil and paper-based tests. Digital ballpoint-pens can be used like normal ballpoint-pens, but additionally allow the exact timing of individual writing processes and thus enable gathering data that are suitable for modelling answering processes.


In this project, age differences between younger and older adults in pencil and paper tests of perceptual speed were assessed with digital ballpoint-pens. The goal of the project was to model the answering processes using models developed in mathematical psychology (especially diffusion models), which enable a far better understanding of individual and age-related differences than traditional methods of analysis.

The joint project of the departments “Education and Human Development” and “Educational Quality and Evaluation” began in July 2013. After an iterative phase of pilot studies, the testing took place in Frankfurt from autumn 2013 onward. Participants were either aged 18 to 35 or 65 to 80 years.

Selected Publication

Dirk, J., Kratzsch, G. K., Prindle, J. J., Kröhne, U., Goldhammer, F., & Schmiedek, F. (2017). Paper-based assessment of the effects of aging on response time in processing speed: A diffusion model analysis. Journal of Intelligence, 5, 12. doi:10.3390/jintelligence5020012

Project management

Project Details

Completed projects
07/2013 – 12/2014
Contact: Prof. Dr. Florian Schmiedek, Head/management
last modified Jul 27, 2017

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