Associate Professor, Faculty of Science
I do research in applied cognitive psychology. My main area of application is the psychology of driving, while my more theoretical interests are in vision and memory. Some of my research actually… read more
I do research in applied cognitive psychology. My main area of application is the psychology of driving, while my more theoretical interests are in vision and memory. Some of my research actually fuses all three of these areas - i.e. where do drivers look, and what do they remember after they have looked there? Some examples of the kind of research that I am involved in are provided below: Visual Search in Novice and Experienced DriversWe have recorded the eye movements of large numbers of newly qualified drivers both while they are driving an instrumented vehicle and while they are watching videos of driving situations in the laboratory. These drivers seem to have very different search strategies to those used by drivers with five to ten years of traffic experience. We are investigating ways of training newly qualified drivers to use more effective visual search strategies.Eye Movements in Dangerous Driving SituationsWe have found that eye movements in dangerous situations are characterised by an increase in average fixation durations and a reduction in mean saccade length, and in spread of both horizontal and vertical search. These situations also produced particularly dramatic differences between novice and experienced drivers in their visual search strategies.Memory for Accidents and Near AccidentsOur work on eye movements predicts that memory in dangerous situations should be best for central information and worst for peripheral details. Various memory studies have supported this conclusion. One of our more surprising findings is how often drivers completely forget their accidents and near accidents. Drivers seem to be particularly likely to forget about minor incidents when they did not feel personally responsible for the accident.Attention and Memory Failures in Routine TasksOne other surprising example of a memory failure in drivers is the "time gap experience". This is the common feeling of 'waking up' while driving to the realisation that you can't remember anything about the previous section of road. We have found that this type of experience is reported frequently both in driving and other everyday tasks. We also have some tentative evidence linking such experiences to involvement in road traffic accidents.Traffic Accident LiabilityThe key practical question in the psychology of driving is to understand individual and situational factors which predict the occurrence of accidents. Some of the factors we have been particularly interested in are hazard perception ability, occurrence of anger while driving, tradeoffs between speed and accuracy, and general driving style as measured in an instrumented vehicle. One new area of interest is company car drivers and the types of accidents that they are involved in.
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