EMF Health-effects Research

Driven to distraction: dual-Task studies of simulated driving and conversing on a cellular telephone

Strayer DL, Johnston WA.

Psychol Sci 12(6):462-466, 2001

Dual-task studies assessed the effects of cellular-phone conversations on performance of a simulated driving task. Performance was not disrupted by listening to radio broadcasts or listening to a book on tape. Nor was it disrupted by a continuous shadowing task using a handheld phone, ruling out, in this case, dual-task interpretations associated with holding the phone, listening, or speaking,

However significant interference was observed in a word-generation variant of the shadowing task, and this deficit increased with the difficulty of driving. Moreover unconstrained conversations using either a handheld or a hands-free cell phone resulted in a twofold increase in the failure to detect simulated traffic signals and slower reactions to those signals that were detected.

We suggest that cellular-phone use disrupts performance by diverting attention to an engaging cognitive context other than the one immediately associated with driving.

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