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Using Audiobooks to combat Mental Underload: How Traffic Density and Road Complexity affect Driving Performance while Multitasking in Virtual Environments

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Title: Using Audiobooks to combat Mental Underload: How Traffic Density and Road Complexity affect Driving Performance while Multitasking in Virtual Environments
Author: Nowosielski, Robert
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Trick, Lana
Abstract: Distracted driving (driving while performing a secondary task) is the cause of many collisions. Most research on distracted driving has focused on operating a cell-phone, but distracted driving can include driving while eating, conversing with passengers or listening to music or audiobooks. Although the research has focused on the deleterious effects of distraction, there may be situations where distraction (specifically audiobooks) improves driving performance. Mental underload is associated with an increased collision risk and it is possible that secondary tasks can help alleviate underload while driving. In my Master’s thesis, I conducted three experiments where licensed drivers were tested in a driving simulator on roads of differing complexity. Road complexity was manipulated by increasing traffic, scenery, and the number of curves in the drive. Participants either simply drove, drove while listening to an audiobook, and drove while engaging in a handsfree conversation. Driving performance was measured in terms of braking response time to hazards, average speed, standard deviation of speed, and standard deviation of lane positioning. Overall, driving performance was better in simple driving environments, where audiobooks were found to lead to lower hazard reaction time and speeds closer to the posted speed limit compared to simply driving and driving while engaging in a handsfree conversation. Furthermore, it was found that secondary tasks lead to lower reaction time to vehicles, but higher to pedestrians.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/11533
Date: 2017-08
Rights: Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada


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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada