Most research on cell phone distraction has revolved around driving, and has led to laws against using handheld phones when behind the wheel. But it turns out that walkers using cell phones are also distracted, more so than individuals walking alone, or in pairs, or even those listening to music. In fact, so much so that only 25 percent of them even noticed a clown unicycling past. (The clown was not a lovely coincidence but rather a study prop.)
Researchers at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., set out to study inattentional blindness using the unicycling clown test, the results of which will be published in the December issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.
It turns out that those walking alone, in pairs, or while listening to music noticed the unicycling clown more than 50 percent of the time, while those walking while talking into their cell phones noticed him only 25 percent of the time.
Cell phone walkers also had difficulties with the task of walking itself, and walked on average more slowly (at least they won't hurt the clown when they bowl him over), tended to weave, and rarely acknowledged nearby individuals (which may or may not be the result of distraction).… Read more