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Human Biology

Year 2017



Task type: Science Inquiry

Title: Reflex(es) and the Reflex Arcs

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A reflex is a automatic response mediated by the nervous system that does not need intervention of

conscious thought to take effect. A reflex requires a stimulus to be activated, whether it be a hot pan or

an incoming ball. The stimulus is detected by one of our sensory organs. The response to stimuli takes

effect mere seconds after the stimulus is sensed. The reflex takes place very fast. Another property of

reflex is that is is acquired naturally. It is an unlearned behavioral reaction or in other words, a

stereotyped response.Moreover, reflexes are important to ensure the survival of our species as it enables

us to avoid incoming danger so that we will not get hurt unnecessarily.

The purpose of procedure A is to explore the relationship between the presence of the light source or the

incoming tip of the napkin and the response of the subject. When the tip of the napkin approaches the

eye, the eye will blink. When the light source is shone on the eye, the pupil will become smaller.

The purpose of the procedure B is to explore whether the condition of the subject impacts the reaction

time of subject. The fastest reaction time is when the subject had he/her eyes closed. The independent

variable of this experiment is condition of subject; the dependent variable of this experiment is reaction

time of subject; as measured by the formula t= 2h/g , whereby h is the height at which the ruler was

caught and g is gravity.

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Discussion of Procedure A
When investigating the first innate reflex, the subject blinked before the tip of the napkin could touch the

cornea of the eye. This reflex is essential for our survival because it prevents foreign substances from

entering the eye. Without this reflex, the eye could easily be infected or injured.

On the other hand, when investigating the second innate reflex, the subject's pupil became smaller when

light was shone on it. This is important for our survival because it decreases light sensitivity of the eye,

therefore allowing us to see properly. If this reflex did not work properly, we would not be able to see

properly because there might be too much light or too little light in the environment to produce a clear


Name of Reflex Description Survival/protective Prediction if it did not

value work properly
Swallowing Throat contracts to Ensures that the Throat will get clogged
push object into oesophagus would not with chewed food. The
oesophagus get clogged with food. food will not reach the
It also ensures that the stomach.
food will be sent to the
stomach for digestion.
Pharyngeal/gag Throat contacts to push To get rid of unwanted Toxins will enter the
object out of substances before it body. The body will
oesophagus causes severe have no choice but to
damage/problems digest the toxic food.
Scratch/ Withdrawal Hand pushes object Prevents body from Will get burnt or hurt
away/pulls away from irreversible damage. easily because of slow
object or no reaction.
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Discussion of Procedure B

An innate reflex is a natural unlearned response to a stimulus, for example the pupil resizing in

adjustment to light. On the contrary, a learned reflex is association related. For example, beginning to

salivate when smelling food.

Condition Height at which the ruler was caught h/cm Reaction

time, t/ s

Eyes open, not reciting alphabet

Eyes open, reciting alphabet

Eyes closed, not reciting alphabet
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The repetition of the experiment increased the reliability of the data. Each condition was tested five

times to get a more reliable result. The validity of the experiment can be improved if the experimenter

collected data based on the characteristics of the subjects such as age group and gender so that the

results may apply to everyone.

When the subject was reciting the alphabets backwards, the reaction time of the subject was slower. This

is because the subject was concentrating on something else and was too preoccupied to focus on

catching the ruler. Based on this observation, it is evidently a bad idea to talk on your cell-phone while

driving because this will slow down the reaction time of the driver. The driver will be too preoccupied

with the conversation to concentrate on the road.

Moreover, when the subject had his/her eyes closed, the reaction time was faster. This is because the

subject was able to feel the ruler be dropped. The act of the closing his/her eyes enabled the subject to

shut out all other senses, making it easier for the subject to concentrate on one sense, touch. This is why

a blind person is able to maintain their reaction time, despite their blindness.


Experiment A shows that the subject carried out a reflex when confronted with a stimulus. The subject

blinked his/her eyes when the tip of the napkin approached it. Other than that, the subject's pupil became

smaller when a light source was shone on it. The hypothesis is accepted.

As for Experiment B, the fastest reaction time was when the subject's eyes were open and were not

reciting the aphabet. The hypothesis is not accepted.

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