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Journal Article


Chapman PR, Underwood GJ. Perception 1998; 27(8): 951-964.


Department of Psychology, University of Nottingham, UK.


(Copyright © 1998, SAGE Publications)






Previous research on visual search in driving suffers from a number of problems: small sample sizes, a concentration on mundane situations, and a failure to link results to more general psychological theory. The study reported in this paper addresses these issues by recording the eye movements of a large sample of drivers while they watched films of dangerous driving situations and comparing the findings with those from more general studies on scene perception. Stimuli were classified according to the types of road shown and the degree of danger present in the scenes. Two groups of subjects took part, fifty-one young novice drivers who had just gained a full driving licence and twenty-six older more experienced drivers. Dangerous situations were characterised by a narrowing of visual search, shown by an increase in fixation durations, a decrease in saccade angular distances, and a reduction in the variance of fixation locations. These effects are similar to the concept of 'attention focusing' in traumatic situations as it is described in the literature on eyewitness memory. When road types are compared, the least visually complex rural roads attracted the longest fixation durations and the shortest angular saccade distances, while the most visually complex urban roads attracted the greatest spread of search but the shortest fixation durations. Differences between the groups of subjects were also present. Novices had longer fixation durations than experienced drivers, particularly in dangerous situations. Experienced drivers also fixated lower down and had less vertical variance in fixation locations than novices.

Language: en


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