Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Hands Free' Isn't Mind Free: Performing Even Easy Tasks Impairs Driving

Date:
April 6, 2006
Source:
Association For Psychological Science
Summary:
Do you think using a hands-free device makes it okay to talk on a cell phone while driving? Despite the well-intended laws requiring the use of hands-free devices, a driver's performance is impaired when distracted by even the simplest tasks, whether or not both hands are on the steering wheel.

Do you think using a hands-free device makes it okay to talk on a cell phone while driving? Despite the well-intended laws requiring the use of hands-free devices, a driver's performance is impaired when distracted by even the simplest tasks, whether or not both hands are on the steering wheel.

Until now, the slowing of reaction time under multitasking conditions, referred to as the psychological-refractory-period (PRP) effect, has been studied mainly with simple tasks in laboratory settings. But a new research study presents a unique perspective of how the PRP effect pertains to driving, perhaps the most ubiquitous real-world task where non-optimal performance can have serious consequences.

The study was conducted by University of California, San Diego scientists Jonathan Levy and Harold Pashler, along with Erwin Boer of ERB Consulting. Their research appears in the article "Central Interference in Driving: Is There Any Stopping the Psychological Refractory Period?" in the March issue of Psychological Science.

Forty students participated in the study, which involved driving a car simulator, composed of a large plasma screen, a steering wheel, and gas and brake pedals located on the floor. In the simulation, students followed a lead car and were instructed to brake as soon as they saw the illumination of the lead car's brake lights (they were instructed to avoid gradual slowing even if it was possible). While subjects performed the braking task, they occasionally were required to respond to a concurrent easy task, where a stimulus – either a light flash in the lead car's rear window or an auditory tone – was randomly presented once or twice. Participants indicated the stimulus' frequency, sometimes by pressing a key on the steering wheel once or twice and sometimes by saying aloud the words "one" or "two."

Subjects in the study braked more slowly when the easy task's stimulus was presented simultaneously or shortly before the brake lights, thereby demonstrating the PRP effect occurs with "real-world" tasks. Participants were 174 milliseconds slower at braking when the two tasks occurred at the same time than when they were presented 350 milliseconds apart. While 174 milliseconds may sound tiny, it translates to 16 feet in a car going 65 mph. Responses were just as slow with auditory stimuli (tones) and vocal responses compared to visual stimuli (light flashes) and manual responses, meaning that even tasks that do not have a visual or manual component (like hands-free talking) can still lower response times when driving.

"This study joins a growing body of research showing that 'freeing up the hands' does not result in faster brake response times," says Levy, the lead author on the project. He adds, "not everyone appreciates the processing cost while driving imposed by carrying out other tasks, even easy ones."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association For Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association For Psychological Science. "'Hands Free' Isn't Mind Free: Performing Even Easy Tasks Impairs Driving." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060405234657.htm>.
Association For Psychological Science. (2006, April 6). 'Hands Free' Isn't Mind Free: Performing Even Easy Tasks Impairs Driving. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060405234657.htm
Association For Psychological Science. "'Hands Free' Isn't Mind Free: Performing Even Easy Tasks Impairs Driving." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060405234657.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins