Judging Thieves of Attention Commentary on “Assessing Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile,” by Strayer, Turrill, Cooper, Coleman, Medeiros-Ward, and Biondi

The laudable effort by Strayer and his colleagues to derive a systematic method to assess forms of cognitive distraction in the automobile is beset by the problem of nonstationary in driver response capacity. At the level of the overall goal of driving, this problem conflates actual on-road behavior; characterized by underspecified task satisficing, with our own understandable, scientifically inspired aspiration for measuring deterministic performance optimization. Measures of response conceived under this latter imperative are, at best, only shadowy reflections of the actual phenomenological experience involved in real-world vehicle control. Whether we, as a research community, can resolve this issue remains uncertain. However, we believe we can mount a positive attack on what is arguably another equally important dimension of the collision problem.

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