'Looked-but-failed-to-see' vehicle collisions occur when a driver gives all indications of having responsibly evaluated the driving situation yet still fails to see a hazard that is clearly in view. The experience maps well onto the psychological phenomenon called inattentional blindness (IB). IB occurs when a viewer fails to see an unexpected object that is clearly visible, particularly if they are concentrating on an additional primary task. In this study, a driving-related IB task was used to explore whether an unexpected stimulus (US) such as a pedestrian or animal, is more likely to be seen in country or city-related driving scenarios if it is congruent or incongruent with the semantic context of the scenes, and thus congruent or incongruent with the attentional set of the viewer. Overall, participants were more likely to see the US in the City scenarios, which also demonstrated a borderline effect of congruency, with incongruent stimuli less likely to be seen than congruent stimuli. Analyses suggested that driver experience was related to detection of the US in City scenarios but not Country scenarios. However, analyses also revealed that participants generally tended to drive in city rather than country environments, thus prompting speculation that the results may reflect attentional requirements for familiar and unfamiliar driving scenarios. Thus we suggest that the analysis of the driving situation, and the attentional set that we develop to filter information, change when the driving situation is more familiar.
Copyright © 2012. Published by Elsevier Ltd.