The Impact of Load on Dynamic versus Static Situational Knowledge While Driving

Situation awareness (SA) was examined while driving in a driving simulator under load or no load conditions. Participants drove through two simulated maps and were periodically interrupted, the driving paused, and were asked questions regarding dynamic (i.e., moving) and static (i.e., non-moving) aspects of the environment. Participants in the load condition also had to count backwards by sevens during the drive. Results indicate that driving under load conditions leads to an overall drop in performance in processing of the dynamic elements of the scene, but no such decrement was observed for the static elements. Implications for current theories of SA and applied attention, as well as the potential relevance to understanding impaired driving performance from cell phone use, are discussed.

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