CDF-XL: Computing cumulative distribution frequencies of reaction time data in Excel


In experimental psychology, central tendencies of reaction time (RT) distributions are used to compare different experimental conditions. This emphasis on the central tendency ignores additional information that may be derived from the RT distribution itself. One method for analysing RT distributions is to construct cumulative distribution frequency plots (CDFs; Ratcliff, Psychological Bulletin 86:446–461, 1979). However, this method is difficult to implement in widely available software, severely restricting its use. In this report, we present an Excel-based program, CDF-XL, for constructing and analysing CDFs, with the aim of making such techniques more readily accessible to researchers, including students (CDF-XL can be downloaded free of charge from the Psychonomic Society’s online archive). CDF-XL functions as an Excel workbook and starts from the raw experimental data, organised into three columns (Subject, Condition, and RT) on an Input Data worksheet (a point-and-click utility is provided for achieving this format from a broader data set). No further preprocessing or sorting of the data is required. With one click of a button, CDF-XL will generate two forms of cumulative analysis: (1) standard CDFs, based on percentiles of participant RT distributions (by condition), and (2) a related analysis employing the participant means of rank-ordered RT bins. Both analyses involve partitioning the data in similar ways, but the first uses a median-type measure at the participant level, while the latter uses the mean. The results are presented in three formats: (i) by participants, suitable for entry into further statistical analysis; (ii) grand means by condition; and (iii) completed CDF plots in Excel charts.

Behavior Research Methods, 43, 1023–1032