Mental workload while driving: effects on visual search, discrimination, and decision making

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2003 Jun;9(2):119-37. doi: 10.1037/1076-898x.9.2.119.


The effects of mental workload on visual search and decision making were studied in real traffic conditions with 12 participants who drove an instrumented car. Mental workload was manipulated by having participants perform several mental tasks while driving. A simultaneous visual-detection and discrimination test was used as performance criteria. Mental tasks produced spatial gaze concentration and visual-detection impairment, although no tunnel vision occurred. According to ocular behavior analysis, this impairment was due to late detection and poor identification more than to response selection. Verbal acquisition tasks were innocuous compared with production tasks, and complex conversations, whether by phone or with a passenger, are dangerous for road safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Decision Making*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Fatigue / psychology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Visual Perception*