Research Papers

The Effects of Valence on Driving

Version 1
Date added June 30, 2016
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Category 2016 CARSP XXVI Halifax
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 4A
Author/Auteur Caroll Lau
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation Only (no paper submitted)

4A - Lau


Background/Context: Emotion is thought to have a significant role in driving such that it affects attention while driving. Research suggests that positive and negative valence have different effects on attention. For example, the “broaden and build” model suggests that positive valence broadens attention leading to more fixations on peripheral stimuli, while negative valence narrows attentional focus. When driving, these effects on attention can influence how one can detect hazards on the road. Hazard detection and steering ability are thought to have different attentional mechanisms. Hazard detection involves focal attention, which is intimately related with eye movements that serve to place information in the fovea (the part most sensitive to fine detail). Focal attention is crucial for object recognition and visual search, abilities important for recognizing and responding to hazards. Hazard response performance is often measured by braking response times (i.e., how long it takes a driver to respond to hazards using the brakes of the vehicle). In contrast, steering (controlling the driver’s position in space) is thought to require ambient attention, a type of attention that does not involve eye movements. Steering performance is assessed by the standard deviation of lane positioning (SDLP) or how much deviation the driver has from the center of their lane, more variability in SDLP simply means poorer steering performance.

Aims/Objectives: Recent driving experiments designed to look at the effects of valence on driving tend to confound valence with arousal rising complications about the independent influence valence may have on performance. Thus, this study was designed to observe how positive and negative valence influences driving performance while controlling the effects of arousal.

Methods/Target Group: Valence was manipulated by presenting music at major and minor keys associated with positive and negative valence. Because arousal increases with tempo (speeds) in music, tempo was adjusted to an average moderate tempo for all music stimuli to control for arousal.

A study was conducted to test participants using a driving simulator while listening to music in either major key, minor key, or no music at all. Brake response times for peripheral and central hazards were compared and steering performance was assessed by the standard deviation of lateral positioning.

Results/Activities: It is expected that positive valence significantly reduces response time for peripheral stimuli, as well as have lower variability in SDLP (i.e., better steering). Given that increasing music tempo is associated with increased driving speeds, by adjusting music to a moderate tempo driving speeds should remain non-significantly different between groups.

Discussion/Deliverables: N/A

Conclusions: By understanding the factors that influence driving performance, in particular emotion, performance can be maximized. Ultimately, this can lead to minimizing vehicle collisions associated with inattention.

Caroll Lau