Cell Phone “Blindness”

For most of us, cell phones have become a vital part of our everyday lives. We can hardly remember what life was like without them. They make our daily routine so convenient and efficient. We can pay bills while we are taking the elevator, or schedule a dentist appointment while we are on the way to work. We can all appreciate a life style of multi-tasking, but have you ever consider what you are missing while you are on your cell phone?

Spend some time today, and test yourself. Try to remember what you see while you are on your cell phone. If you were driving down the road, try to recall the colors of some of the vehicles you passed. Did you pass any road work sites? Were there any workers on the sites you passed? If you were walking while you were on your phone, can you remember what any of the people you passed were doing? Did you pass a clown on a unicycle?

That is what researchers at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington asked in a 2009 study for the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal. The researchers used a clown on a unicycle to test their theory that people engrossed in a cell phone call had inattentional blindness. The researchers positioned a unicycling clown in a popular square and stopped 347 random pedestrians who were either walking alone, listening to music, walking with a friend, or talking on a cell phone after they passed the clown to find out if they noticed him.

The results of their study overwhelmingly suggest that people engrossed in a cell phone conversation suffer a substantial decrease of awareness of the environment around them. Only eight percent of cell phone users remembered the clown when asked if they had seen anything unusual, and that number only increased to twenty-five percent when the pedestrians were specifically questioned about the unicycling clown. The numbers were substantially higher in each of the other categories. According to their research, although people look at their surroundings as they talk on a cellphone, the visual data does not register.

Other studies using driving simulators have had similar outcomes, with the results showing motorists are slower to react, and thus more accident-prone, when taking on a cell phone, even hands-free, because the drivers are less able to process visual information. In other words, even though their eyes look right at something, they are not as likely to see it while they are on a cell phone.

Georgia does not currently have a law that completely bans cell phone use while driving, except in certain professions, such as bus drivers; however, texting while driving is completely prohibited, and teens drivers may not use cell phones, including hands free, at all while driving. Check our blog for updates on this hot topic in the law.

Sources:

What Clown on a Unicycle? Studying Cellphone Distraction; http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/what-clown-on-a-unicycle-studying-cell-phone-distraction/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1; Cell Phone Users Drive ‘Blind’; http://unews.utah.edu/old/p/031506-7.html