Earthquake occurrence probabilities that account for stress transfer and time-dependent failure depend on the product of the effective normal stress and a lab-derived dimensionless coefficient a. This coefficient describes the instantaneous dependence of fault strength on deformation rate, and determines the duration of precursory slip. Although an instantaneous rate dependence is observed for fracture, friction, crack growth, and low temperature plasticity in laboratory experiments, the physical origin of this effect during earthquake faulting is obscure. We examine this rate dependence in laboratory experiments on different rock types using a normalization scheme modified from one proposed by Tullis and Weeks . We compare the instantaneous rate dependence in rock friction with rate dependence measurements from higher temperature dislocation glide experiments. The same normalization scheme is used to compare rate dependence in friction to rock fracture and to low-temperature crack growth tests. For particular weak phyllosilicate minerals, the instantaneous friction rate dependence is consistent with dislocation glide. In intact rock failure tests, for each rock type considered, the instantaneous rate dependence is the same size as for friction, suggesting a common physical origin. During subcritical crack growth in strong quartzofeldspathic and carbonate rock where glide is not possible, the instantaneous rate dependence measured during failure or creep tests at high stress has long been thought to be due to crack growth; however, direct comparison between crack growth and friction tests shows poor agreement. The crack growth rate dependence appears to be higher than the rate dependence of friction and fracture by a factor of two to three for all rock types considered. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.