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Measuring working memory load effects on electrophysiological markers of attention orienting during a simulated drive

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Intersection accidents result in a significant proportion of road fatalities, and attention allocation likely plays a role. Attention allocation may depend on (limited) working memory (WM) capacity. Driving is often combined with tasks increasing WM load, consequently impairing attention orienting. This study (n = 22) investigated WM load effects on event-related potentials (ERPs) related to attention orienting. A simulated driving environment allowed continuous lane-keeping measurement. Participants were asked to orient attention covertly towards the side indicated by an arrow, and to respond only to moving cars appearing on the attended side by pressing a button. WM load was manipulated using a concurrent memory task. ERPs showed typical attentional modulation (cue: contralateral negativity, LDAP; car: N1, P1, SN, and P3) under low and high load conditions. With increased WM load, lane-keeping performance improved, while dual task performance degraded (memory task: increased error-rate; orienting task: increased false alarms, smaller P3). Practitioner Summary Intersection driver-support systems aim to improve traffic-safety and -flow. However, in-vehicle systems induce working memory (WM) load, increasing the tendency to yield. Traffic flow reduces if drivers stop at inappropriate times, reducing the effectiveness of systems. Consequently, driver-support systems could include WM load measurement during driving in the development phase.

    Research areas

  • Journal Article, VISUOSPATIAL ATTENTION, Attention orienting, ERP COMPONENTS, CROSSING ASSIST SYSTEM, DISTRACTION, SELECTIVE ATTENTION, working memory load, COGNITIVE LOAD, driving simulation, YOUNG NOVICE DRIVERS, IMPACT, OLDER DRIVERS, EVENT-RELATED POTENTIALS, event-related potentials, Humans, Evoked Potentials, Male, Reaction Time, Young Adult, Computer Simulation, Adult, Female, Task Performance and Analysis, Workload, Adolescent, Attention/physiology, Memory, Short-Term, Automobile Driving
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-443
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018