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Testing attention restoration in a virtual reality driving simulator

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-02-22, 15:52 authored by Marica Cassarino, Marta Maisto, Ylenia Esposito, Davide Guerrero, Jason Seeho Chan, Annalisa Setti
Objectives: Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that walking or being in natural settings, as opposed to urban environments, benefits cognitive skills because it is less demanding on attentional resources. However, it is unclear whether the same occurs when the person is performing a complex task such as driving, although it is proven that driving through different road environments is associated with different levels of fatigue and may engage attention differently. The present study investigated whether exposure to rural vs. urban road environments while driving would affect attentional capacity in young people after the drive, in line with the classic ART paradigms. Methods: We asked 38 young participants to complete the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) before and after being exposed to a rural or urban road in a virtual reality environment while driving in a full vehicle immersive driving simulator. Changes in SART performance based on environmental exposure where explored in terms of target sensitivity, accuracy, reaction times, and inverse efficiency. We analyzed potential road type effects on driving speed and accuracy. Possible effects of driving on attention were tested by comparing the sample performance to that of a control group of 15 participants who did not drive and sat on the passenger seat instead. Results: Exposure to rural or urban road environments in the driving sample was not associated with any significant changes in attentional performance. The two exposure groups did not differ significantly in terms of driving behavior. Comparisons between the driving sample and the control group controlling for age indicated that participants who drove were more accurate but slower at the SART than those who were passengers. Conclusion: The present study does not support the hypothesis that a short drive in a natural setting may promote attention restoration as compared to an urban setting. Methodological considerations as well as recommendations for future research are discussed.



Frontiers in Psychology;10, article 250


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First published by Frontiers Media in Frontiers Psychology 2019, 10, aticle 250



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