Author(s): Pierce RS, Andersen GJ
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Abstract In the present study we assessed whether the limits in visual-spatial attention associated with aging affect the spatial extent of attention in depth during driving performance. Drivers in the present study performed a car-following and light-detection task. To assess the extent of visual-spatial attention, we compared reaction times and accuracy to light change targets that varied in horizontal position and depth location. In addition, because workload has been identified as a factor that can change the horizontal and vertical extent of attention, we tested whether variability of the lead car speed influenced the extent of spatial attention for younger or older drivers. For younger drivers, reaction time (RT) to light-change targets varied as a function of distance and horizontal position. For older drivers RT varied only as a function of distance. There was a distance by horizontal position interaction for younger drivers but not for older drivers. Specifically, there was no effect of horizontal position at any given level of depth for older drivers. However, for younger drivers there was an effect of horizontal position for targets further in depth but not for targets nearer in depth. With regards to workload, we found no statistically reliable evidence that variability of the lead car speed had an effect on the spatial extent of attention for younger or older drivers. In a control experiment, we examined the effects of depth on light detection when the projected size and position of the targets was constant. Consistent with our previous results, we found that drivers' reaction time to light-change targets varied as a function of distance even when 2D position and size were controlled. Given that depth is an important dimension in driving performance, an important issue for assessing driving safety is to consider the limits of attention in the depth dimension. Therefore, we suggest that future research should consider the importance of depth as a dimension of spatial attention in relation to the assessment of driving performance. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Accid Anal Prev
and referenced in Journal of Ergonomics