Public Release: 

The unicycling clown phenomenon: Talking, walking and driving with cell phone users

Research news from Applied Cognitive Psychology

Wiley

WASHINGTON, D.C.--October 19, 2009--Everyone tends to float off into space once in a while and fail to see what is sitting there right in front of them. Recently researchers decided to put the theory of "inattentional blindness" to the test: the unicycling clown test. They documented real-world examples of people who were so distracted by their cell phone use that they failed to see the bizarre occurrence of a unicycling clown passing them on the street. The study is published in an upcoming issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Compared with individuals walking alone, in pairs, or listening to their ipod, cell phone users were the group most prone to oblivious behavior: only twenty-five percent of them noticed the unicycling clown. The walkers not using a cell phone noticed the clown over fifty-percent of the time.

Furthermore, the cell phone users had difficulties performing even the simple task of walking, an action that should require relatively few cognitive resources. They walked more slowly, changed direction more often, were prone to weaving, and acknowledged other individuals more rarely. Dr. Ira E. Hyman, Jr. at Western Washington University, head researcher of the study, says, "If people experience so much difficulty performing the task of walking when on a cell phone just think of what this means when put into the context of driving safety. People should not drive while talking on a cell phone." Furthermore, the research shows that the level of familiarity with the person's real-world environment does not affect their attentional awareness.

###

This study is published in the December 2009 issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact scholarlynews@wiley.com.

To view the abstract for this article, please visit:

Dr. Ira E. Hyman, Jr. is a Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University and has extensively studied and published on memory and cognition, and the creation of false childhood memories. Dr. Hyman can be reached for questions at Ira.Hyman@wwu.edu

About the Journal: Applied Cognitive Psychology seeks to publish the best papers dealing with psychological analyses of memory, learning, thinking, problem solving, language, and consciousness as they occur in the real world. Applied Cognitive Psychology is an official journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC). The aim of the Society is to promote the communication of applied research in memory and cognition within and between the applied and basic research communities. Professor Graham Davies is Applied Cognitive Psychology's Editor in Chief. Applied Cognitive Psychology can be accessed at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/acp. For more information about SARMAC, please visit http://www.sarmac.org.

About Wiley-Blackwell: Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit www.wileyblackwell.com or www.interscience.wiley.com.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.