With cellular phones and portable music players becoming a staple in everyday life, questions have arisen regarding the attentional deficits that might occur when such devices are used while performing other tasks. Here, we used a street-crossing task in an immersive virtual environment to test how this sort of divided attention affects pedestrian behavior when crossing a busy street. Thirty-six participants navigated through a series of unsigned intersections by walking on a manual treadmill in a virtual environment. While crossing, participants were undistracted, engaged in a hands free cell phone conversation, or listening to music on an iPod. Pedestrians were less likely to successfully cross the road when conversing on a cell phone than when listening to music, even though they took more time to initiate their crossing when conversing on a cell phone ( approximately 1.5s). This success rate difference was driven largely by failures to cross the road in the allotted trial time period (30s), suggesting that when conversing on a cell phone pedestrians are less likely to recognize and act on crossing opportunities.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.