Posts Tagged ‘Mobile phone’

Multi-tasking in the Automobile

June 26, 2013

This presentation was done by David L. Strayer of the University of Utah at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). His important work on multi-tasking in the automobile has been discussed in previous healthymemory blog posts. To bring you up to date, matters have gotten worse. Elaboration on this point will follow later in this blog. Strayer had video of an individual who was not only texting, but also reading on his kindle why he was driving. He had another video of a motorcyclist who was texting while riding his motorcycle in traffic!

One of the problems with multi-tasking is that people who think they are good at it are usually especially bad at it and put others at risk. Research indicates that at any time on the road about 10% of the drivers are on their phones. Research has also indicated that driving and using your cell phone degrades driving performance to the level of those who are qualified to be legally driving under the influence (BAC > 0.08 %). Statistics indicate that a driver is 2.2 times as likely to commit a traffic violation when they are on a cell phone. Hands free laws are irrelevant. This is a matter of diverting a limited supply of attention. A common statement is, “how is this any worse than speaking with the passenger who is in the car with you?” Here the critical difference is that your passenger is likely aware of the situation and can actually assist you. Strayer had videos of people in a driving simulator with a passenger and a cell phone. Their task was to exit at a specific exit. Those who had a passenger did especially well with the passenger helping them to identify the exit. However, those on a cell phone were much more prone to drive past the exit. He also had video of a driver on a cell phone driving write through a red light and crashing into another car. The reason for this is attentional blindness. Speaking on a phone takes away attention needed for driving. There is a demonstration where viewers are asked to watch a video and count the number of passes of a ball completed by people in the video. During this video a man in a gorilla suit walks across the stage. Most people watching this video miss the man in the gorilla suit because their attention is directed at the ball tossing task!

Texting while driving is even worse. If you are going to text while driving, why not just drive off the road and save the lives of those you might kill texting while driving?   Matters are getting worse. Car manufactures are placing systems in cars that allow you to review email, search the web, and compose text messages while driving. Moreover, drivers can select from options and make dinner reservations. All this crap, and I do mean crap, is being placed in new automobiles without any regard for the risks they are creating!

Am I An Old Fuddy Duddy?

May 27, 2012

Personally, I am very large on technology. In my view, technology, properly developed and applied, can leverage human potential. That is one of the underlying views of the Healthymemory Blog, that technology can grow and enhance human potential (see the “Transactive Memory” category). Some of my primary interests and supposed areas of expertise are in human factors and engineering psychology. These areas are concerned with the interactions of humans with technology and in how technology can be designed so it can achieve maximum use. Had anyone asked me many years ago if hand held devices would become popular, I would have opined that they would not, because the keyboards and displays would be way too small. It’s a good thing that no one ever asked me!

I am thrilled by certain types of technology. Email is one of my favorites. In my world, there is no protocol involving email other than not to spam or otherwise annoy people with messages that are not of interest to them. So they can be short or long and can be sent at anytime. You do not have to be concerned about the time, because the recipient can view them at leisure. When you send an email there can be no question of what you wrote and when sent it. Of course, there is no guarantee that the recipient either read or understood your message. A few years ago I learned from a young lady that my protocol was out of date. If a message was short, email was inappropriate, whereas a text message was. I still do not understand why there was a need to complicate matters.

I don’t understand texting. I never text and I never read texts. When I receive a text message on my phone that I have received x number of text messages and asked if I want to read them now, I invariably respond “no.” These messages will never be read. I find inputting a text to be a nuisance. If time is of the essence, then I’ll phone. Otherwise, I much prefer waiting until I can get to a computer with a decent keyboard to texting.

So I have admitted to having a mobile phone. And I do like them, but mostly when I’m traveling. They most definitely should not be used when we are driving (see the Healthymemory Blog post “Phoning and Driving is as Dangerous as Drinking and Driving”), but I must confess to using the phone briefly while driving in certain situations. Although I have a mobile phone, it is not one of the smart ones. It is a rare circumstance when I have not gathered all the information I need before leaving my residence to go or do something. I was awarded one of those navigation devices for so many years of service with my company, but I have not installed it and my wife has no interest in my installing it. I like to have my directions in advance, with an accompanying map in the event that things go wrong. I don’t like getting my directions on the fly, particularly in the dynamic (or more accurately, chaotic) traffic in which I usually drive. Perhaps I am adapting to a diminished ability to multitask as I age. But even with a younger person at the wheel, I am not comfortable as a passenger when the driver is consulting the navigation gizmo in rapidly changing traffic. I suspect that some traffic accidents occur as a result of drivers interacting with their navigation devices.

There is a popular notion that due to the prevalence of all these devices, the brains of young people have been rewired for multitasking. Although young people might be more prone to multitasking, they do pay a cognitive cost (see the Healthymemory Blog post, “The Dangers of Multitasking”). It is important to realize that we are very poor at gauging our ability to multitask. There is an inverse relationship between the perceived ability to multitask and actual multitasking performance. So the unfortunate tendency is that those who are poorest at it, tend to do more of it.

To return to the title of this post, “Am I An Old Fuddy Duddy?” Am I missing out on technology that is of potential value to me? Or am I adapting my use of technology to my waning attentional abilities? Please enter your comments, recommendations, and advice.

© Douglas Griffith and, 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.