The unicycling clown phenomenon: Talking, walking and driving with cell phone users

October 19, 2009

Everyone tends to float off into space once in a while and fail to see what is sitting there right in front of them. Recently researchers decided to put the theory of "inattentional blindness" to the test: the unicycling clown test. They documented real-world examples of people who were so distracted by their cell phone use that they failed to see the bizarre occurrence of a unicycling clown passing them on the street. The study is published in an upcoming issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Compared with individuals walking alone, in pairs, or listening to their ipod, cell phone users were the group most prone to oblivious behavior: only twenty-five percent of them noticed the unicycling clown. The walkers not using a cell phone noticed the clown over fifty-percent of the time.

Furthermore, the cell phone users had difficulties performing even the simple task of walking, an action that should require relatively few cognitive resources. They walked more slowly, changed direction more often, were prone to weaving, and acknowledged other individuals more rarely.

Dr. Ira E. Hyman, Jr. at Western Washington University, head researcher of the study, says, "If people experience so much difficulty performing the task of walking when on a cell phone just think of what this means when put into the context of safety. People should not drive while talking on a ." Furthermore, the research shows that the level of familiarity with the person's real-world environment does not affect their attentional awareness.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell

Explore further: NTT DoCoMo unveils ring-shaped cell phone

Related Stories

Hold the Phone

December 1, 2006

A new law taking effect in North Carolina today (Dec. 1) is putting the brakes on cell phone use by teen drivers. But do teenagers yapping on the phone behind the wheel pose a bigger safety risk than other phone-wielding ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.