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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Central interference in driving - Is there any stopping the psychological refractory period?

  • Author(s): Levy, J
  • Pashler, H
  • Boer, E
  • et al.

Participants attempted to perform two tasks concurrently during simulated driving. In the choice task, they responded either manually or vocally to the number of times a visual or auditory stimulus occurred; in the braking task, they depressed a brake pedal in response to the lead car's brake lights. The time delay between the onset of the tasks' stimuli, or stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA), was varied. The tasks were differentially affected by the manipulations. Brake reaction times increased as SOA was reduced, showing the psychological refractory period effect, whereas the choice task showed large effects of the stimulus and response modalities but only a small effect of SOA. These results demonstrate that a well-practiced "simple" task such as vehicle braking is subject to dual-task slowing and extend the generality of the central-bottleneck model.

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