Effects of verbal and spatial-imagery tasks on eye fixations while driving

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2000 Mar;6(1):31-43. doi: 10.1037//1076-898x.6.1.31.


The consequences of performing verbal and spatial-imagery tasks on visual search when driving were studied. Twelve participants drove 84 km on 2 highways and 2 roads. On each route, they performed 2 verbal tasks and 2 spatial-imagery tasks while their eye movements were recorded. The same results were repeated on all routes. Pupillary dilation indicated similar effort for each task. Visual functional-field size decreased horizontally and vertically, particularly for spatial-imagery tasks. Compared with ordinary driving, fixations were longer during the spatial-imagery task. With regard to driving performance, glance frequency at mirrors and speedometer decreased during the spatial-imagery task. Results are interpreted in terms of multiple attention-resource theories; implications of internal distractions on road safety are discussed in terms of possible impairment in relevant information processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Male
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Problem Solving
  • Verbal Behavior*