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:
Understanding Junction Crashes - One of the most frequent and bewildering crashes at junctions is when a driver pulls out at a junction straight into the path of an oncoming vehicle - often a motorcycle. We estimate that around a 100 people in the UK and up to 100,000 people world-wide die in this sort of crash every year. Our research using the NITES 1 driving simulator suggests that many of these crashes may be caused by memory errors. Because these seem to happen even after the driver has looked straight at the oncoming vehicle we have called them "Saw but Forgot" errors.
Visual Search in Novice and Experienced Drivers - We 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 Situations - We 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 Accidents - Our 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 Tasks - One 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 Liability - The 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.
See Bike, Say Bike - Motorcyclist are particularly likely to be victims of someone pulling out at a junction in front of them. These crashes happen so often that bikers have a special name for them - SMIDSY. This stands for "Sorry Mate I Didn't See You", which is what the driver often says afterwards. Our research has suggested that the drivers may often be wrong - the did see the motorcyclist, they had just forgotten about them when the pulled out. We have the proposed the "See Bike, Say Bike" intervention as a way of increasing the capacity of drivers' working memory for oncoming vehicles by using the phonological loop. One of my current research priorities is exploring the effectiveness of this intervention and ways in which it can be extended and applied practically.