Testing attention restoration in a virtual reality driving simulator

Thumbnail Image
Cassarino, Marica
Maisto, Marta
Esposito, Ylenia
Guerrero, Davide
Chan, Jason S.
Setti, Annalisa
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Frontiers Media
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
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.
Attention restoration , Driving simulator , Virtual environment , Driving behaviour , Mental fatigue , Cognitive load
Cassarino, M., Maisto, M., Esposito, Y., Guerrero, D., Chan, J. S. and Setti, A. (2019) 'Testing Attention Restoration in a Virtual Reality Driving Simulator', Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 250, (7 pp). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00250
© 2019 Cassarino, Maisto, Esposito, Guerrero, Chan and Setti. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.