Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How 'Blind Are You' When Walking or Driving While Talking On The Cell Phone, Mobile Phone? Loss of Concentration & Focus On Task At Hand.

Just How Blind Are You When Talking on a Cell Phone?

October 19, 2009...7:21 pm


cell-phone-driving_smallEveryday in the news we see stories decrying the use of
cell phones while driving. Research reports aplenty have been released
estimating the percentage of ones attention siphoned by mobile jabber and how
little is left to focus on the highway.

This is great and I'm glad the discussion is happening, but it might be useful to ask whether cell phone use in other (non-driving) venues has a similar effect on attention. What better way to make the point that cell phone use is dangerous when driving than showing its effect on someone doing something not nearly as focus intensive like walking, for instance.

That's exactly what the authors of a new study published in the journal Applied Cognitive
wanted to do. Researchers examined the effects of divided
attention when people are either (1) walking while talking on a cell phone, (2)
walking and listening to an MP3 player, (3) walking without any electronics, or
(4) walking in a pair.

The measure of how much attention is diverted during any of these
activities is called inattentional blindness“ not seeing what's right in
front of you, or around you, due to a distracting influence. If you've ever
watched the YouTube video of the gorilla walking through the crowd
of people passing around a ball, then you've seen an example of inattentional blindness (here is a great paper
on the effect downloadable as a PDF).

For the first experiment of the study, trained observers were
positioned at corners of a large, well-traveled square of a university campus.
Data was collected on 317 individuals, ages 18 and older, with a roughly equal
breakdown between men and women.

The breakdown between the four conditions
(with MP3, with cell phone, etc) was also roughly equal. Observers measured
several outcomes for each individual, including the time it took to cross the
square; if the individual stopped while crossing; the number of direction
changes the individual made; how much they weaved, tripped or stumbled; and if
someone was involved in a collision or near-collision with another walker.

The results: for people talking on cell phones, every measure
with the exception of two (length of time and stopping) was significantly higher
than the other conditions. Cell phones users changed direction seven times as
much as someone without a cell phone (29.8% vs 4.7%), three times as much as
someone with an MP3 player (vs 11%), and weaved around others significantly more
than the other conditions (though, interestingly, the MP3 users weaved the least
of all conditions).

People on phones also acknowledged others only 2.1% of the time
(vs 11.6% for someone not on a phone), and collided or nearly collided with
others 4.3% of the time (vs 0% for walking alone or in a pair, and 1.9% when
using an MP3 player).

The slowest people, who also stopped the most, were walking in pairs. In fact, next to the other conditions walking in pairs was the only one that came anywhere close to using a cell phone across the range of measures.

The next experiment replicated the first, but only one measure
was tracked: whether or not walkers saw a clown unicycling across the square.
And this was an obnoxiously costumed clown, complete with huge red shoes,
gigantic red nose and a bright purple and yellow outfit. Interviewers
approached people who had just walked through the square and asked them two
questions: (1) did you just see anything unusual?, and (2) did you see the

The results: When asked if they saw anything unusual, 8.3% of
cell phone users said yes, compared to between 32 and 57% of those walking
without electronic devices, with an MP3 player, or in pairs. When asked if they
saw the clown, 25% of cell phone users said yes compared to 51%, 60% and 71.4%
of the other conditions, respectively. In effect, 75% of the cell phone users
experienced inattentional blindness. (The discrepancy between the 8.3% and the
25% might be because the clown didn’t register as something “unusual� — this is,
after all, a university campus.)

So, coming back around to the original point — if using a cell
phone impairs attention as drastically as this study shows for people just
walking, could it by any stretch of the imagination be a good idea to use one
while driving?

One caveat to that concluding question should be mentioned: As
noted in the results, people walking in pairs–most likely talking to each
other–were next in line for inattentional blindness. This jibes with research
(discussed in this TIME article) indicating that talking to someone in your car
while driving is significantly distracting–perhaps not quite as much as chatting
on a cell phone, but in the neighborhood. Auditory cues, whether from a phone
or from the person next to you, divert attention. The problem with cell phones,
however, is that a user lacks the other set of eyes his co-chatter has to offer,
which could very well be the difference between being in an accident or getting
home safely.

I., Boss, S., Wise, B., McKenzie, K., & Caggiano, J. (2009). Did you see the
unicycling clown? Inattentional blindness while walking and talking on a cell
phone Applied Cognitive PsychologyDOI:


A new study has shown that using a cell phone while walking is so
distracting that it causes inattentional blindness.

Washington, Oct 20 - ANI:

Researchers at Western Washington University
investigated the effects of divided attention during walking.
Individuals were classified based on
whether they were walking while talking on a cell phone, listening to an MP3
player, walking without any electronics or walking in a pair.
In the first study, the researchers found
that cell phone users walked more slowly, changed directions more frequently,
and were less likely to acknowledge other people than individuals in the other

In the second study, they
found that cell phone users were less likely to notice an unusual activity along
their walking route (a unicycling clown).
The study suggests that cell phone usage may cause
inattentional blindness even during a simple activity that should require few
cognitive resources. - ANI


Increased Fatalities From Cellphones Whether Talking While Walking or While

Main Category: IT /
Internet / E-mail

Article Date: 05 Mar 2009 - 4:00 PDT


Cell phones are a danger on the
road in more ways than one. Two new studies show that talking on the phone while
traveling, whether you're driving or on foot, is increasing both pedestrian
deaths and those of drivers and passengers, and recommend crackdowns on cell use
by both pedestrians and drivers.

The new studies, lead-authored by
Rutgers University, Newark, Economics Professor Peter D. Loeb, relate the impact
of cell phones on accident fatalities to the number of cell phones in use,
showing that the current increase in deaths attributed to cell phone use follows
a period when cell phones actually helped to reduce pedestrian and traffic
fatalities. However, this reduction in fatalities disappeared once the numbers
of phones in use reached a "critical mass" of 100 million, the study found.

These studies looked at cell phone use and motor vehicle accidents from
1975 through 2002, and factored in a number of variables, including vehicle
speed, alcohol consumption, seat belt use, and miles driven. The studies found
the cell phone-fatality correlation to be true even when weighing in factors
such as speed, alcohol consumption, and seat belt use.

Loeb and his
co-author determined that, at the current time, cell phone use has a
"significant adverse effect on pedestrian safety" and that "cell phones and
their usage above a critical threshold adds to motor vehicle fatalities." In the
late 1980s and part of the 1990s, before the numbers of phones exploded, cell
phone use actually had a "life-saving effect" in pedestrian and traffic
accidents, Loeb notes. "Cell-phone users' were able to quickly call for medical
assistance when involved in an accident. This quick medical response actually
reduced the number of traffic deaths for a time," Loeb hypothesizes.

However, this was not the case when cells were first used in the
mid-1980s, when they caused a "life-taking effect" among pedestrians, drivers
and passengers in vehicles. In those early days, when there were fewer than a
million phones, fatalities increased, says Loeb, because drivers and pedestrians
probably were still adjusting to the novelty of using them, and there weren't
enough cell phones in use to make a difference in summoning help following an
accident, he explains.

The "life-saving effect" occurred as the volume
of phones grew into the early 1990s, and increasing numbers of cells were used
to call 911 following accidents, leading to a drop in fatalities, explains Loeb.
But this life-saving effect was canceled out once the numbers of phones reached
a "critical mass" of about 100 million and the "life-taking effect" - increased
accidents and fatalities -- outweighed the benefits of quick access to 911
services, according to Loeb.

"The cell phone effect on pedestrian
fatalities" (Transportation Research Part E, Elsevier, Vol. 45, Issue 1, January
2009, with William A. Clarke, Bentley University, Waltham, MA,) looked at
pedestrian fatalities related to cell phone use; the still-to-be-released "The
impact of cell phones and BAC Laws on Motor Vehicle Fatality Rates" (Applied
Economics, Loeb, Clarke and Richard Anderson, New Jersey City University),
examines all cell-related traffic fatalities. Loeb and his co-authors used
econometric models to analyze data from a number of government and private
studies, including those by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
the Department of Transportation, MADD, and the U.S. Census Bureau, among

He and his co-authors recommend that governments consider more
aggressive policies to reduce cell phone use by both drivers and pedestrians, to
reduce the number of fatalities.

Source: Carla Capizzi
Rutgers University


Human Kinetics / Excerpts

Walking while talking on a cell phone can be dangerous

By Richard A. Schmidt, PhD, and Craig A. Wrisberg,


Recent research suggests that walking and talking on a cell phone can be
dangerous (Hatfield & Murphy, 2007). In that study, the behaviors of more
than 500 pedestrians were observed as they crossed a street. Pedestrians who
were talking on a cell phone moved more slowly and were less likely to wait for
cars to stop or even look at traffic before setting out compared with those who
were not using a cell phone. These findings suggest that talking on a cell phone
is a form of cognitive distraction that can put pedestrians at risk.

These phenomena have also been demonstrated recently in studies about cell
phones and driving (see Strayer, Drews, & Johnston, 2003). It is not simply
the buttonpressing that is distracting; the conversation itself is
distracting—especially when you consider that button-pressing is brief and
conversation may be lengthy. This casts doubts about the effectiveness of the
recent bans on handheld cell phones (but not hands-free phones) while driving in
various U.S. states; because it is not only the action of the hands that is
distracting, these bans might not have very much effect on driver safety.

This is an excerpt from Motor
Learning and Performance, Fourth

An Excerpt published her by courtesy of : http://www.whiterockreporter.com

No comments: