Driving without awareness: The effects of practice and automaticity on attention and driving

This research examined the development of proceduralised “driving without awareness” in a driving simulator by paying participants to drive a simulated road regularly over 12 weeks of testing. This longitudinal research paradigm is a significant departure from previous studies which have examined drivers in a conscious attentional mode using short experimental sessions or cross-sectional designs comparing expert and novice performance. During each session, participants took two “trips” on the simulated road; sometimes travelling on a “to and from” journey on one half of the road, sometimes traversing the entire road in one direction. A range of measures, including driving performance, vehicle detection, perceptual speed regulation, and hazard reactions were collected. The results showed the development of driving patterns and changes in object detection performance indicative of proceduralised driving. Speed and lane position variability quickly decreased with practice, as did participants’ subjective experiences of driving difficulty. Performance on an embedded detection task appeared to become a proceduralised part of the driving task, becoming highly efficient in later stages of the experiment. The changes in attentional focus and driving performance over time provide new light on previous research findings and allow us to critically re-examine several established models of driver behaviour.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Charlton, S.G. & Starkey, N.J. (2011). Driving without awareness: The effects of practice and automaticity on attention and driving. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 14(6), 456-471.