Shopping Basket 0
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.



Improve your mental processing speed

By Lee Brown and Vance Ferrigno

Mental processing speed is composed of three stages: sensation, perception, and response selection.


  • Sensation. During the sensation stage, an environmental stimulus acts on the athlete’s body. As a result, an electric impulse is sent to the brain for extensive processing. The interval of time that elapses while the athlete detects the sensory input (light, sound, touch, and so on) from an object or the environment is referred to as sensation time (Green 1999). Let’s consider the example of a volleyball serve-receive to put sensation time into a practical context. During a serve-receive, all six athletes on the receiving team must prepare to receive the ball. Each athlete must detect not only if the ball is coming toward him or her but also at what speed and with what characteristics. In this case, the visual amalgamation of colors and borders of the ball and the environment begins to reveal such characteristics of the ball as its direction, velocity, and disposition (Schmidt and Wrisberg 2000). Discerning these initial stimuli in the sensation stage begins to give meaning to the situation presented to the athlete and ushers in the second stage of mental processing speed, perception.
  • Perception. During the perception stage, the results of the sensation stage are further processed, resulting in usable patterns of object movement that bring fuller meaning to the athlete’s situation. The length of time needed to acknowledge and correlate the array of sensations discovered in stage one is defined as perception time (Green 1999). Continuing with our volleyball serve-receive example, all six athletes combine the visual amalgamation that has begun to be given meaning with the audible cues given by the defensive specialist to detect the serve as a deep, right-corner floater (note that audible cues register faster than visual stimuli) (Schmidt and Wrisberg 2000). At this point, each athlete must decide if a response is necessary. The information gathered in the perception stage is then passed on to the third stage of mental processing speed, response selection.
  • Response selection. During the response-selection stage, the athlete decides whether or not a response is necessary to address the stimulus. In the volleyball example, all six players have detected that the serve is a deep, right-corner floater. As a result, five players will decide no response is necessary while one player must respond in a manner that results in proper body position for a successful pass. The total time required to organize a response, or the decision not to respond, to the environmental stimuli is called response selection time (Green 1999). Please note, for the sake of simplicity, that the serve-receive example describes the decision process involved in assessing whether or not to receive the serve. It does not consider off-ball movements that are required of the other five players on the court.

This is an excerpt from Training for Speed, Agility and Quickness.

Facebook Reddit LinkedIn Twitter

Get the latest news, special offers, and updates on authors and products. SIGN UP NOW!

Human Kinetics Rewards

About Our Products

Book Excerpts


News and Articles

About Us

Career Opportunities


Business to Business

Author Center

HK Today Newsletter


Exam/Desk Copies

Language rights translation

Association Management

Associate Program

Rights and Permissions




Certifying Organizations

Continuing Education Policies

Connect with Us

YouTube Tumblr Pinterest

Terms & Conditions


Privacy Policy


Safe Harbor