Obstacle avoidance during texting while walking : cognitive capacity predicts performance

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Chopra, Preeti, M.S. in Kinesiology

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Introduction: Cell phone related pedestrian injuries have been increasing. The effect of cell phone use on the ability to avoid obstacles has not yet been studied yet. Here, we examined the impact of cell phone use and task complexity on ability to avoid an obstacle. Additionally, we studied the influence of baseline cognitive capacity on performance. Method: Thirty young adults walked on a treadmill in a virtual reality environment, with and without performing a Cell Phone Task while negotiating No, Simple and Complex objects. Cognitive Capacity was measured using standardized cognitive tests. Cell Phone and Obstacle Negotiation Task performance for different conditions were compared. Linear correlation analysis of Cell Phone and Obstacle Negotiation Task performance with Baseline Cognitive Capacity was conducted. Result: Percent Collision, Movement Time and Variability in Movement Time increased due to the cell phone use. Movement Time was higher for Complex as compared to Simple Object Negotiation. Cell Phone Task performance was adversely affected due to object negotiation. Individuals with lower PPVT RT and Failure to Maintain Set had less collisions when used cell phone along with avoiding obstacles. Individuals with higher Flexibility performed better on the Cell Phone Task while negotiating obstacles simultaneously. Conclusion: Use of a cell phone affects pedestrian safety by compromising with their ability to avoid obstacles. Additionally, an individual’s response depends on their cognitive capacity.


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