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Glossary » speed-accuracy tradeoff

speed-accuracy tradeoff

in many types of perceptual-motor tasks, there is a tradeoff between how fast a task can be performed and how many mistakes are made in performing the task. That is, a user can either perform the task very fast with a large number of errors or very slow with very few errors. When asked to perform a task as well as possible, people will apply various strategies that may optimize speed, optimize accuracy, or combine the two. For this reason, comparing the performance of 2 users cannot be done on the basis of speed or accuracy alone, but both values need to be known.

Under some testing situations, people can be instructed to optimize either speed or accuracy, and they will effectively adopt the appropriate strategy. However, results can be extremely hard to compare, because time differences between a person who made zero errors and a person who made one error can be dramatic. For this reason, in situations where a speed-accuracy tradeoff exists, the relationship between speed and accuracy needs to be mapped out.