A momentary attraction

Vaughan of the ever fascinating Mind Hacks discusses a recent study that looks at the effects of having an attractive passenger in the car on driver errors.  The researchers put forty people in driving simulators and made them drive through hazards while talking to passengers.  The basic finding was that the drivers failed to spot pedestrians and hit more motorbikes when talking to those passengers that they considered to be more attractive.  Driving with somebody you fancy is dangerous.

More interesting, though, is the detail.  The drivers who were distracted by their hot companions were more anxious and drove slower; their eyes continued to look in all the right directions.  The errors that they made were “looked but failed to see” errors: they were looking at the road and mirrors as usual, but not processing the information.  I imagine they thought that they were driving well, at appropriate speed, and making all of the checks that they needed to make…

Link to PubMed entry for study; link to Vaughan’s post.