Imagery-inducing distraction leads to cognitive tunnelling and deteriorated driving performance

Briggs, Gemma F.; Hole, Graham J. and Land, Michael F. (2016). Imagery-inducing distraction leads to cognitive tunnelling and deteriorated driving performance. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 38 pp. 106–117.



The effects of imagery-induced distraction on hazard perception and eye movements were investigated in 2 simulated driving experiments. Experiment 1: sixty participants viewed and responded to 2 driving films containing hazards. Group 1 completed the task without distraction; group 2 completed a concurrent imagery inducing telephone task; group 3 completed a non imagery inducing telephone task. Experiment 2: eye-tracking data were collected from forty-six participants while they reacted to hazards presented in 16 films of driving scenes. 8 films contained hazards presented in either central or peripheral vision and 8 contained no hazards. Half of the participants performed a concurrent imagery-inducing task. Compared to undistracted participants, dual-taskers were slower to respond to hazards; detected fewer hazards; committed more “looked but failed to see” errors; and demonstrated “visual tunnelling”. Telephone conversations may interfere with driving performance because the two tasks compete for similar processing resources, due to the imagery-evoking aspects of phone use.

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