Posts Tagged ‘driving’

More Safety and Less Community

April 20, 2019

We now return to iGEN: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. The title of this post is the second part of the title of Chapter 6.

The chapter begins with a discussion about a student who has just finished her first year of community college that she attended from home living with her parents. She has a part time job and isn’t taking any classes over the summer. She says,”I need my summer. If I didn’t have it, I’d go crazy. Just as many of her fellow iGen-ers she doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, and has had limited experience with romantic relationships. She doesn’t think these things are safe. She says, “Going out and partying when you’re drunk, you’re in such an altered state of mind, you behave in ways that you never would when sober. There’s drunk driving—and people take advantage of you when you’re drunk. It’s not safe. You’re going to hurt yourself, or someone’s going to hurt you. It’s not my thing.”

Dr. Twenge notes that this iGener’s interest in safety extends beyond physical safety to a term she only recently learned from iGen: emotional safety. For example some iGen-ers believe that high school is too young to have a romantic relationship, especially a sexual one. This iGen-er points to scientific research to back up her conclusions. With the release of oxytocin (during sex), you form emotional connections to someone whether you like it or not. She thinks it dangerous to become emotionally reliant on someone, but especially at that age, when your brain is still developing. She is correct in that the prefrontal lobe, which is responsive for reasoning and executing control, continues to mature until the mid-twenties. There are probably people from earlier generations who might wish they had this knowledge that this iGen-er has at this age.

Statistics bear out this point. iGen teens are safer drivers. Fewer high school seniors get into car accidents, and fewer get tickets. This is a recent trend, beginning only in the early 2000s for tickets and in the mid-2000s for accidents. As recently as 2002, more than one out of three 12th graders had already gotten a ticket. By 2015 only one in five had.

A 2016 survey asked iGen teens what they wanted most out of a car, comparing them to Millennial young adults who recalled their preferences as teens. The feature iGen wanted much more than Millennials is safety.

iGen teens are also less likely to get into a car driven by some who’s been drinking; the number who did so was cut in half from 40% in 1991 to 20% in 2015.

Although iGen-ers tend to eschew alcohol, they are just as likely to use marijuana as Millennials were. The reason is that they tend to believe that marijuana is safe. Some iGen-ers believe that marijuana is not just safe, but beneficial. One iGen-er wrote, “Weed has been proven to provide many health benefits. It helps with pain, cancer, and many other illnesses. It can prevent people from getting addicted to other drugs that are way more harmful.” Nevertheless, iGen’ers remain cautious. Even though they are more likely to see marijuana as safe, use hasn’t gone up.

There has also been a decline in fighting and a waning of sexual assault. In 1991, half of 9th graders had been in a physical fight in the last twelve months, but by 2015 only one in four had. The homicide rate among teens and young adults reached a forty-year low in 2014. The number of teens who carry a weapon to school is now only a third of what it was in the early 1990s. From 1992 to 2015 the rate of rape was nearly cut in half in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

iGen’ers’ risk aversion goes beyond their behaviors toward a general attitude of avoiding risk and danger. Eighth and tenth graders are now less likely to answer positively to “I like to test myself every now and then by doing something a little risky.” Nearly half of teens found that appealing in the early 1990s, but by 2015 less than 40% did. They are also less likely to agree that “I get a real kick out of doing things that are a little dangerous.” In 2011, the majority of teens agreed that they got a jolt out of danger, but within a few years only a minority shared this view.

For the most part these changes can be regarded as improvements in attitudes and behavior. But Dr. Twenge notes that the flip side of iGen’s interest in safety is the idea that one should be safe not just from car accidents and sexual assaults, but from people who disagree with you. She provides as an example the most recent version of the “safe space” now known as a place where people can go to protect themselves from ideas they find offensive. She writes, “In recent years, safe spaces have become popular on college campuses as responses to visits by controversial speakers: if students are upset by a speakers message, they can come together in a separate location to console one another.

A 2015 “Atlantic” piece by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s on safe spaces and other campus controversies was titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” and was illustrated with a picture of a confused-looking toddler wearing a shirt that said “College.” Josh Zeits wrote in “Poilitico Magazine,” “Yesterday’s student activists wanted to be treated like adults. Today’s want to be cheated like children.”

Such an attitude precludes a full education. It also precludes an effective democracy.

The trend in iGen’ers is not to take an interest in education. They attend college because they feel they have to to get a better job. Dr. Twenge writes, “Teen’s interest in school took a sudden plunge beginning around 2012, with fewer students saying they found school interesting, enjoyable, or meaningful. The strong push for technology in the classroom seems to have assuaged students’ boredom during the 2000s, but by the 2010s little in the classroom could compete with the allure of the ever-tempting smartphone.

Can Zombies Drive to Work?

March 20, 2016

The title of this post is identical to Chapter 2  of Elizier J. Sternberg’s “Neurologic:  The brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.”  I believe all of us who drive have had the experience of driving someplace and having no memory of the drive itself.  We might as well been a Zombie during the drive.  So there you have the answer to the question posed in the title of the chapter.  The chapter is about how our unconscious minds perform well-trained behaviors while doing something else.  Sometimes we can perform some behaviors that have not been previously practiced.  Sternberg provides an example in which a man was able to drive to a house and murder someone without having any conscious awareness of it.  Moreover, he was acquitted of murder at his trial on the grounds that he had no conscious intention of murdering someone and that all this was the result of non conscious processing.

A large part of this chapter is devoted to multi-tasking, and how we are able to multi-task.  However, he never mentions the costs of multi-tasking, and I regard this failure as being not just highly irresponsible, but dangerously irresponsible.  There have been many healthy memory posts on the dangers of multi-tasking.  Enter “multitasking” or “Strayer” into the healthy memory blog search block to find some os these posts.  Sternberg even cites some of  Strayer’s research in the chapter, but never mentions the risk of multi-tasking that is the point of Strayer’s research.

I think a distinction can be made between intentional multi-tasking and unintentional multi-tasking.  Unintentional multi-tasking is more commonly known as distraction or mind wandering.  There was an article in the February 21 Washington Post (A14) by Michael Laris titled “Why Do Metro rail operators keep running red signals?”

Red signals indicate that a train should go no further until the signal changes, just as on the road.  But according to the Federal Transit Administration there have been at least 47 “red signal” violations since the beginning of 1912.  And some of these violations ended just short of some very severe accidents.

It is important to realize that these are not incompetent or careless individuals.  If we understand how our conscious attention works, they can be quite understandable. Under one situation in which there was single tracking, the operator responded to the red signal and stopped.  He waited for the train to pass.  In most cases only one train passes.  However, in this case there was a second train.  As the operator was expecting only a single train, he ignored the red signal and proceeded and found that a second train was coming.  Fortunately, he stopped and a collision was avoided.

In another case, a novice operator out for her first run boarded a train on the wrong track.  This was her first actual day on the job and she was overwhelmed.    She gave the controller the number of the track she was on, but the controller failed to tell her that she was on the wrong train and she proceeded.  Again, the mistake was corrected before a collision occurred.

Another operator was told that a complaint had been levied against her to which she ended to respond.  This distracted and she missed the red signal.

It is not unusual for people to respond and think that they actually performed correctly., but the documented evidence is to the contrary.  Personally, I have had many such experiences where I am virtually certain that I saw or did something, but the facts indicate that I was in error.

It should be noted that similar problems trouble Transportation Security Administration  agents gazing  at X-ray images and surgeons peering into incisions.

It needs to be realized that multitasking always entails costs.  And that cost is more the the sum of the costs of the multiple tasks being performed.  There is also a cost to switching between  between or among the multiple tasks.  If the task is important, concentrate on that task and devote all your attention to it.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Benefits of Turning Right

December 21, 2015

Astute readers might well question what this post has to do with a healthy memory.  Having a blog offers one certain liberties for venting on certain topics.  One of my pet peeves is being stuck behind a driver making a left turn.  I wonder if the driver has actually though through his destination, and if there is not a better route turning right.

While reading “Why the Net Matters” I encountered a study done by UPS.  Having their riders take efficient routes saves money for the company, so they have done detailed studies and developed algorithms to guide their drivings into take the most efficient routes.

The finding that caught my eye is that in the case of left turns time is lost waiting for traffic to pass.  Not only time is lost, but fuel is wasted.  What the research found is that one left turn is as costly as three right turns.

I am not asking you to weight making right turns more heavily just to mitigate my personal aggravation, but to save time and fuel costs for yourself.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cell Phone Distraction

September 21, 2015

I was surprised to read an article by Krystal D’Costa titled “We’ve Modified Our Behavior So We Can Walk and Talk”  in the online  August 5 Scientific American  Mind and Brain.  I don’t object to the title of the article.  Undoubtedly we have modified our behavior as the result of cell and smartphone technology.  However, I do object to some conclusions in the article.  The basic conclusion she comes to is that we’ve adapted and there are no problems.  As you shall read below, there are problems.  Please let me disabuse you of her Panglossian conclusion.

There have been many, many posts on the healthy memory blog, regarding the risks of driving while either talking or texting on a cell phone.  On May 27th, an article in the Washington Post by Ashley Halsey III summarized the result of a report from the National Safety Council.  Between 2000 and 2011 more than 11,000 people were injured while walking and talking on their cell phones.  Most of these people were women younger than 40.  Nearly 80 percent of injuries were the results of falls, and 9% of those who suffered injuries simply walked into something with enough force to hurt themselves.

Although 42% of the injured were younger than 30, these injuries were not exclusively a young person’s affliction.  20% of the injuries happened to individuals 71 years or older.

The council reported that 26% of all traffic accidents were attributable to drivers’  talking on their cell phones, while 5% of drivers involved in accidents were writing or reading text messages.  Please do not conclude from these statistics that texting is safer than talking on a cell phone.  I believe that the correct conclusion is that fortunately there are many fewer people who are foolish enough to text while driving.  It should be alarming that there are drivers foolish enough to do this.

Other research by Dr. Lee Hadlington of De Montfort University in Leicester, England and reported in the Huffington Post found that frequent users of mobile technology are more likely to experience cognitive failures, such as forgetting one’s wallet, missing an appointment, or bumping into someone in the street.  This research involved 210 British mobile phone users between the ages of 18 and 65.  Their average weekly Internet use was about 25 hours.  The participants answered questions about the amount of time they spend using the internet and mobile devices, and about their behaviors related to perception, motor function, and memory.  There was a significant correlation between the amount of time an individual spends using the internet or a mobile phone and their likelihood of experiencing cognitive failures in their rail lives.  These failures included memory error, physical blunders and daydreaming while others are talking.

The statistic I wanted to find, but could not, was the number of walkers distracted by their cell phones who were hit by cars.  I know there had to be some such cases.  I have seen people walking, distracted with their cells phones, who step out into the street or cross the street neglecting to look for traffic.  I do fear hitting one of these individuals who step in front of my car before I have time enough to stop.
© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mindful Commuters

October 22, 2014

The front page of the October 20 Washington Post had an article “Mindful’ commuters say deep breaths, clear mind keep them calm under stress.” Although it might sound impossible, people who practice mindful commuting swear it brings tranquility to the daily misery of crowded trains, late buses, honking horns, and traffic jams. According to the article almost 2 million people use one meditation-on-the-go-ap, and plenty of others are downloading a recent explosion of guided meditation podcasts and Web recordings, and others take mindfulness classes.

Mindfulness also is used by drivers who commute. One commuter said she pays attention to her breathing and relaxes when her jaw tightens or her fingers clench the steering wheel during her hour-plus commute. She said that practicing mindfulness has expanded her driving field of vision beyond traffic to include trees, architecture and cloud formations. She says that she thinks that mindfulness makes her a much better driver. When you drive you have to be aware of everything around you. I think that the incidents of road rage would decrease in direct proportion to the number of drivers practicing mindfulness. Headspace is a meditation app for guiding commuting meditations used by about 1.7 million people.

Commuters who ride practice formal meditation focusing on their breathing, noticing when their minds wander and repeatedly returning to their breathing as a way to train their attention. People who drive or ride a bike practice a more informal kind of meditation aimed at increasing awareness. They focus on sights, sounds, and physical sensations that root them in the present moment than in their topsy-turvy minds.

Mindful commuters feel less stressed and can dismiss worries about arriving late. They also tend to be compassionate about their fellow commuters.

Six ways to have a more mindful commute follow from the same article.

Turn your attention from when you’ll get to your destination, it’s out of your control anyway, to your surroundings, particularly what you notice via your senses: Sounds, the feel of your feet on the ground or your rear in a seat, places in your body that feel tight or hot from tension.

If you’re not driving or riding a bike, focus on your breathing. Take five breaths, with deep inhalations and slow exhalations. Then return to normal breathing, but try to notice each breath. You can gaze ahead, or slightly down, at a fixed point or close your eyes. When you notice you’ve become lost in thought spiral of “Oh no, I’m going to be late. My boss is going to be so ticked. I’ll probably get fired. Then I’ll probably starve to death…”), gently return your attention to your breathing and sounds around you. Allow thoughts to come and fgo without attaching any significance to them.

If you’re driving or riding a bike, cut the music and become more aware of the sights and sounds around you: the view of trees or taillights, the sound of birds, the feel of wind on your face. When you notice yourself lost in thought, come back to your senses.

When angry or annoying thoughts are triggered, notice the physical sensations of those thoughts (a tight chest, feeling of heat, tense shoulders) and consciously relax. Try a silent mantra,such as “It’s okay” or “This is out of my control, I’m doing the best I can.”

Use redlights or stops on a train or bus as a reminder to notice whether you’re lost in thought. Then reofocus on your breathing or you senses.

When you walk, focus on the feel of your feet connecting with the ground, your breathing, the sounds around you (even it it’s the steady thrum of traffic) and the feel of the air on your face. When you notice you’ve become distracted or lost in thought, return to your senses.

Multitasking is a Trade-Off

December 9, 2012

I completed my Bachelor’s Degree at Ohio State. Multitasking is an important and frequent topic for this blog (just enter “multitasking” in the search block to find related articles). So when I came across an article with this title in the alumni magazine, I could not resist using this source.1

Multitasking interferes with learning and performance. Studying while watching TV results in less learning. Communicating via instant messaging leads to a 50% drop in the performance of a simultaneous visual task. Communicating via voice phone leads to a 30% drop in the same task. Consequently, you should never engage in these tasks while driving. It is also true that hands free laws do not solve the problem.

A group of researchers at Ohio State recruited 32 college students who reported on their activities three times a day for four weeks. These students tracked their use of media (computer, radio, print, and television) as well as their use of social networking and other activities. For each activity and combination of activities the students listed their motivations using a list of potential needs including social, fun/entertainment, study/work, and habits/background noise. They reported on the strength of each need and whether it was met. The results indicated that if the cognitive need that was the reason for the multitasking in the first place, it was poorly met. The obvious reason is the distraction effect. In addition to the other task, the act of switching between tasks makes attentional demands. The students indicate that multitasking was very good at meeting their emotional needs (fun/entertainment/relaxation) even though they were not seeking to satisfy these needs.

Probably the most common reason that they multitask is that they are busy and time constraints demand it. Although that might be true, another reason is that it is enjoyable. Or, at least, it allows the pursuit of enjoyable activities. Students, indeed everyone, should be aware of this. If something is important, we probably should not multitask. However, if we do, we should be aware of the loss in efficiency and devote more time to the primary task. Students might not realize this and multitask because it is more enjoyable. This probably results in a lower grade unless the student has compensated for the less efficient learning.

I multitask. I frequently multitask by reading when I’m watching a sporting event. I know that if something important happens, they will replay it. I might even read while I’m watching the news or similar programs where a variety of topics are being covered, and I am only interested in some of them. But if what I am reading is important, the television is off

The choice between pleasure/enjoyment and what is good for us is a common one. Diet is another one. All we can do is make reasonable trade-offs.

1Mullin, M. (2012). Multitasking is a trade-off. Ohio State Alumni Magazine, September-October, p.24.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.