Multitasking–you Aren’t as Good at it as you Think.
We all multitask, and most of us feel pretty comfortable with ourselves while we’re doing it. This may not be a problem when you’re trying to do two harmless tasks, like watching a movie and crocheting a blanket at the same time, but when you’re behind the wheel of a car, how dangerous is multitasking?
With the onset of cell phones and texting, people are beginning to multitask more while they drive. Despite laws against holding a phone when you’re driving, we all know people don’t always heed the warnings. But how risky is it really to talk on the phone or text while you’re driving? An eye tracking study gave some interesting insight.
Researches at Ohio State University used eye tracking technology to determine how well people attended to two tasks simultaneously, either audio-visual multitasking or visual-visual. They set participants up to do matching task while simultaneously giving a confederate experimenter directions. Half of the participants were using Google Chat while they gave directions and did the matching task, and the other half were using Google Talk with a headset.
The experiment yielded some surprising results, and some not so surprising. For instance, the participants doing the visual-visual multitasking (Google Chat with the matching exercise) were far less accurate in the matching task than they were when they were not chatting–a 50% decrease. This was much worse than the participants using Google Talk with the headset, who saw a 30% decrease.
However, when questioned later, participants using Google Chat felt like they had done very well in both their given tasks, while participants using Google Talk were less sure about how well they performed. This suggests that drivers feel more comfortable that they can text and drive more accurately than they could talk and drive–scary, considering the results of this study.
These results give interesting insight into talking on the phone or texting while driving–even using the headset, users found a significant decrease in the amount of attention they were able to give their task, suggesting that maybe even the headset laws won’t be enough to stop traffic accidents.
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