Texting While Driving and the Myth of Mutlitasking   Leave a comment

Multitasking is the modern American way. Friends and colleagues frequently claim to be multitasking, as if bragging about their high efficiency. But decades of research by neuroscientists has definitively established that multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains are not designed to pursue two or three tasks at the same time. Our brains function best when doing a singular task.

The best example of this is texting and driving. You cannot give your full attention to the road in front of you and draft or read a text message. Surprisingly, the same is true of merely talking on your cell phone while driving, even if you’re using a hands-free device or Bluetooth through your stereo system. In fact, research has shown that driving a car while on your cell phone is the equivalent of being intoxicated. Sleights of Mind, What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions, Macknik, Stephen L.; Martinez-Conde, Susana; Picador ISBN 978-0-312-61167-5, 2011, p.87. http://www.sleightsofmind.com.

Neuroscientists refer to this principle as inattentive blindness. “We have to be aware that there is a cost to the way that our society is changing, that humans are not built to work this way,” says Russ Poldrack, a brain scientists at UCLA. “We’re really built to focus. And when we force ourselves to multitask, we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient.” Id, pp. 87-88.

Psychologists at Western Washington University conducted a fascinating experiment regarding inattentive blindness. They observed four categories of college students walking across the main campus square. One group was minding their own business and told to simply walk across the quad. A second group was walking in pairs and talking. A third group was listening to music on mobile devices. The fourth group was talking on cell phones. In each instance, a ridiculously costumed clown on a unicycle pedals in circles around the participants.

Which participants noticed the unicycling clown? The students walking in pairs were most likely to notice the clown. The students listening to music on their mobile devices were only slightly less attentive. Half of the students talking on cell phones entirely miss the unicycling class. Half! The cellphone users also walked more slowly, weaving as they crossed the square. Id., p. 86.

So if we are not going to notice a unicycling clown, we certainly are not going to notice the subtleties of the traffic patterns unfolding in front of us: the driver slowly decelerating, the car in front of us drifting into our lane or the commercial vehicle unexpectedly making a left turn into our lane.

Inattentive blindness is probably a factor in the vast majority of car accidents in metropolitan Atlanta, Gwinnett County and in counties all across Georgia. Multi-tasking drivers must be held responsible for the injuries they cause with their carelessness.

Advertisements

Posted May 6, 2013 by Render C. Freeman, Esq. in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: