PSYC 110L Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Traffic Sign, Psychological Science, Gift Card

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23 Jun 2016
Comparing Level of Distraction While Driving With The Snapchat Application
Distracted driving is one of the biggest safety hazards of the twenty-first century, and
with a rapidly increasing amount of applications on cell phones, the risk for accidents due to
distracted driving remains quite high in the United States. Since using a cell phone while driving
has been found to quadruple the risk of a collision and many states are working on policy to ban
using phones while driving, understanding the psychology behind phone use and distracted
driving is part of answering the challenge to make the roads more safe and to keep young drivers
from being in collisions that could kill or injure themselves or another driver (Cramer, Mayer,
Ryan). While the majority of psychological studies are based around texting or making phone
calls, it is also important to understand the use of increasingly popular phone applications that
hold the same type of risk for distracted driving and collisions on the road.
One of the most popular recent applications is Snapchat, where users can send self-
destructing photos to one another with a variety of filters and ability to add text to the photos.
This application is important to study with its effects on distraction since it is widely popular
among young drivers, and with the increasing rates of accidents due to driving distraction, it is
critical to understand if using an application such as Snapchat is just as distracting as other
phone-related activities, such as texting, making a phone call, or checking something on the
Internet. Other studies that surround driving and distraction allow us to have an understanding of
what activities do distract drivers and how unsafe it makes the road, but focusing exclusively on
Snapchat allows us to gain data that could potentially show a difference between usage of
applications versus texting or calling in future studies, as well as proving that an application like
Snapchat is more distracting than driving without using a cellular phone. A study done by
Weller, Shackleford, Dieckmann, and Slovic did test out different usages of cell phones and
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compared the level of perceived attachment to phones and risk of cell phone use while driving;
they found that perceived attachment was significant to increased risk of distracted driving.
Since people are so attached to their phones, it is important to look at all aspects of phone
usage, especially ones that are popular among groups that are high-risk for distracted driving
accidents. With prior research pointing to attachment to phones increasing the risk of cell phone
use while driving, one of the many activities that people would be doing is Snapchatting. An
experiment done by Strayer and Johnston proved that distraction comes from the shift in
attention from the road to phone conversations, and if phone conversations are significantly
distracting then there is certainly a need to see if there is also a significant difference with using
applications so that safety measures can be created to change the increasing trend of distracted
Our hypothesis stated that taking a Snapchat while operating a simulated vehicle is
significantly more distracting than viewing a Snapchat, both of which are more distracting than
not using Snapchat while driving on the simulated vehicle, which was used as the control. To test
this hypothesis, participants were asked to go on three five-minute drives on the simulator; one
involved sending Snapchats, one involved receiving Snapchats, and one was a control where
participants did not use their phone at all. Sending Snapchats was measured by participants
taking a picture of a requested image from the wall; they identified the image, found the contact,
and sent the image to the experimenter. Receiving Snapchats was measured by the participant
picking up their phone, opening the Snapchat, and correctly identifying a number sent by the
experimenter. To measure distraction, we measured the number of times the participant made a
stopping error or had a lane drift or collision during a five minute simulated drive. Stopping
errors are defined as when a participant missed a stop sign or drove through a red light, which
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was measured by the simulator. Lane drifts are defined as two wheels crossing over the lane line
on either side, one wheel crossing either line while turning, or both wheels on the shoulder. Lane
drifts were measured by a second experimenter who was in the room with the participant and the
first experimenter. Collisions were also measured by the simulator when a participant ran into
another car or something else in the driving environment. The experiment was one-way and
utilized within-participant design.
Twenty undergraduate students from a liberal arts college, approximately 18 to 23 years
old, were recruited for participation. Gender was not recorded, but both males and females
participated. Each member of an introductory-level psychology laboratory class recruited one
participant, compensated by entry into a drawing for a $25 gift card (chances of winning about
0.5%). Only licensed drivers who were not currently enrolled in Introductory Psychology and
who owned a cellular phone with the Snapchat application were recruited.
A driving simulation computer program (SimuRide HE, 2010, AplusB Software, Ottawa,
Canada) with Driving Force GT Gaming Console for PS3/PC (Logitech, Fremont, Ca) served as
the driving task. The Gaming Console consisted of a steering wheel with force-feedback
steering, all normal driving controls, and accelerator and brake pedals with adjustable
positioning. The steering wheel was attached to the desk at about normal height relative to the
display on the computer screen, and the driver’s seat (chair) height was adjustable.
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