In a particular cognitive task, research subjects are asked to refrain from pressing a button in response to an auditory cue, called a “stop signal.” The time required by the participant’s brain to cancel the response is called the “reaction time.” In the scientific literature, this construct has been referred to as the following:

  • stop-signal reaction time
  • stop signal reaction time
  • stop-signal reaction-time

Which is correct? Easiest to read? How does the meaning change in each case? The presence of three different forms in the literature makes me believe that I’m missing something in this particular context.

  • I edited out the part that you quoted because I realized that it may apply to a different situation and I didn’t want to confuse the issue.
    – Maroon
    Mar 6, 2018 at 18:35
  • Got it. Hyphenation issues are certainly confusing: I've been trying to study them recently and I still haven't finished my list of all the possible different kinds of situations where hyphens can be used. I just did a search and found my answer to an old question here where I mention some sources I found that seem to have some relevant statements: 'The snap election results' or 'The snap-election results'?
    – herisson
    Mar 6, 2018 at 18:44
  • 1
    Here is another question that seems relevant, but the answer is different from mine: How should a multiple-word noun be punctuated within a compound adjective?
    – herisson
    Mar 6, 2018 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


The first one is more understandable and less confusing, especially if your going to read it inside a sentence. Stop-signal works as an adj, reaction time is the compound noun. Just my two cents :)

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