Routine driving impedes a person’s ability to relay information from a cellphone call accurately to a conversation partner and to remember key elements of that information, say psychologist Gary Dell of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his colleagues.
Although many drivers regard talking while cruising a straightaway as no harder than walking while chewing gum, “that intuition is incorrect,” Dell says.
Both older and younger drivers seated next to a passenger and operating a vehicle in a simulator had more difficulty correctly retelling brief stories, versus retelling stories while sitting in an unmoving “car,” the researchers report in the February Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Participants, especially those over age 60, remembered less about stories after simulated driving than after sitting in the unmoving car. That might reflect a greater emphasis on defensive driving among older drivers.
Driving skills, such as rapid reactions to approaching vehicles in intersections, also took a hit while retelling the stories, the investigators say. Earlier studies have reported that driving worsens while talking on cellphones or sending text messages.
These new findings challenge the belief that work productivity benefits by conducting important conversations, such as business negotiations, while commuting.
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