Visual multitasking dangerous in driving

July 23, 2012 at 6:09 PM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 23 (UPI) -- Ohio State University scientists researching distracted driving say they found people are better at juggling some types of multitasking than others.

Trying to do two visual tasks at the same time hurt performance in both tasks significantly more than combining a visual and an audio task, a university release reported.

However, researchers said people attempting two visual tasks at the same time rated their performance as better than did those who combined a visual and an audio task, even though in fact their performance was worse.

"Many people have this overconfidence in how well they can multitask, and our study shows that this particularly is the case when they combine two visual tasks," OSU communications Professor Zheng Wang said. "People's perception about how well they're doing doesn't match up with how they actually perform."

Using eye-tracking technology, the study determined people's gaze moved around much more when they had two visual tasks compared to a visual and an audio task. They also spent much less time focused on any one task, suggesting distracted visual attention, Wang said.

People who text while they are driving are combining two mostly visual tasks, she said, while people who talk on a phone while driving are combining a visual and an audio task.

"They're both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone, which is not a surprise," Wang said.

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