chapter  16
Visual Attention in Novice Drivers: A Lack of Situation Awareness
ByMelissa Dickinson, Eugene Chekaluk, Julia Irwin
Pages 16

Visual attention is an important skill in driving. Novice drivers have been shown to have significantly poorer visual attention skills in high demand situations. Two hypotheses, situation awareness and cognitive resource limitation, have been proposed to explain this attention deficit. The former may be thought of as schema-driven attention and the latter as referring to automatic or controlled processing. Nevertheless, the existing literature refers to situation awareness and cognitive resource limitation so we will continue to refer to them in this way. Although support has been shown for both hypotheses, when tested directly situation awareness appears to best explain this deficit. This study aimed firstly to investigate the deficit in novices using a peripheral identification task to measure visual attention and secondly to improve on previous methodology comparing the two hypotheses. Eighty-five participants completed a driving simulation that varied in demand, as measured by drive difficulty, during which they had to identify peripherally presented stimuli. The results confirmed that novices display a visual attention deficit in high demand situations. To investigate what hypothesis best explained this deficit, 58 novice drivers completed an additional drive. Participants were allocated to one of four conditions that varied in amount of cognitive resources utilised. Even when cognitive resources were not being used for vehicle control, novice drivers still have poor visual attention. This finding supports the situation awareness hypothesis. Future research should focus on investigating the parameters of situation awareness in novice drivers to help them overcome this vulnerability.