The adapted symbol digit modalities test: Examining the impact of response modality

Silvana L. Costa, Simone Schwizer Ashkenazi, Lauren B. Strober, Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, Eli Vakil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Information processing speed is often impaired in neurological disorders, as well as with healthy aging. Thus, being able to accurately assess information processing speed is of high importance. One of the most commonly used tests to examine information processing speed is the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), which has been shown to have good psychometric properties. OBJECTIVES: The current study aims to examine differences between two response modalities, written and oral, on the performance of an adapted version of the Symbol Digit Modalities Test. METHODS: Ninety-nine individuals completed two alternate forms of the adapted version of the SDMT (aSDMT). Participants were instructed to complete the five lines of the task as quickly and accurately as possible. On one form participants were instructed to provide their response in writing and on the other one, orally. Form and response modality (oral vs. written) were counterbalanced to control for practice effects. RESULTS: On average, there was a significant difference between response modalities, such that participants needed more time to respond when the response modality was written. For both response modalities, time to complete each line of stimuli decreased as the task progressed. While changes in response time on the first four lines of stimuli on the oral version were not found, there was a substantial improvement in response time on the fifth line. In contrast, on the written version a gradual learning effect was observed, in which response time was the slowest on the first two lines, an intermediate response time was noted on line 3, and the fastest response time was achieved on lines four and five. CONCLUSION: The current study demonstrates that response modality, oral versus written, can significantly impact performance efficiency (the length of time it takes to complete a task), but not accuracy (total correct responses), on a new adaptation of the SDMT, the aSDMT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-220
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

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  • Adapted symbol digit modalities test
  • oral versus written version


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