A neural analogue of the worst performance rule: Insights from single-trial event-related potentials

C.W. Saville, K.D. Beckles, C.A. MacLeod, B. Feige, M. Biscaldi, A. Beauducel, C. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The worst performance rule is the tendency for participants' slowest reaction times to correlate more with psychometric intelligence than their faster reaction times. Reaction times, however, are influenced by the duration of multiple perceptual, attentional, and motor sub-processes, and it is unclear whether the same pattern exists in these sub-processes as well. We used single-trial event-related potentials to identify whether a worst performance rule pattern could be found in stimulus and response-locked P3b latency distributions and scores on a test of non-verbal psychometric intelligence.

Fifty participants carried out a set of working memory oddball tasks, while electroencephalographic data were collected, and the British Version of the Intelligence Structure Test, in a separate session. Single-trial P3b latencies were identified in stimulus and response-locked data and a novel quantile bootstrapping method was used to identify which quantiles of the P3b latency distributions correlated most with test scores.

In stimulus-locked data, correlations between quantile mean and test scores became more negative with increasing quantile, showing clear evidence of a worst performance rule pattern. In response-locked data, low scorers showed more extreme latencies in both tails of the distribution. However we did not observe a worst performance rule in behavioural data. These data suggest that psychometric intelligence is also associated with response-related processes, which may also contribute to the association between psychometric intelligence and reaction time variability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-103
Number of pages9
Early online date31 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • P300
  • Intelligence
  • Reaction time variability
  • Mental chronometry


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