This study addresses the relationship between item response time and item accuracy (i.e., the response time accuracy correlation, RTAC) in figural matrices tests. The dual processing account of response time effects predicts negative RTACs in tasks that allow for relatively automatic processing and positive RTACs in tasks that require controlled processing. Contrary to these predictions, several studies found negative RTACs for reasoning tests. Nevertheless, it was demonstrated that the RTAC is moderated by task complexity (i.e., the interaction between person ability and item difficulty) and that under conditions of high complexity (i.e., low ability and high difficulty) the RTAC was even slightly positive. The goal of this study was to demonstrate that with respect to task complexity the direction of the RTAC (positive vs. negative) can change substantially even within a single task paradigm (i.e., figural matrices). These predictions were tested using a figural matrices test that employs a constructed response format and has a broad range of item difficulties in a sample with a broad range of ability. Confirming predictions, strongly negative RTACs were observed when task complexity was low (i.e., fast responses tended to be correct). With increasing task complexity, the RTAC flipped to be strongly positive (i.e., slow responses tended to be correct). This flip occurred earlier for people with lower ability, and later for people with higher ability. Cognitive load of the items is suggested as an explanation for this phenomenon.
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