Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Anxiety and Its Effects on Driving Performance Under Heavy Cognitive Load
by Salayev, Anar, M.Sc., California State University, Long Beach, 2020, 77; 27837398
Abstract (Summary)

Driving is a complex task that utilizes various cognitive, perceptive, and manual resources. In today’s highly connected world, there are opportunities for distraction across all of these modalities. Research has shown that distractions like holding a conversation, texting, and adjusting the in-vehicle information system all negatively impact driving performance. This can be explained using Baddeley and Hitch’s working memory model: we can only allocate a limited amount of resources to processing information, so a cognitive distraction like holding a conversation would make it more difficult to perform a cognitive driving task like following road directions. While this may hold true for healthy adults, the literature is scarce when it comes to looking at the driving performance of individuals with anxiety. According to Attentional Control Theory (ACT), anxious individuals allocate more of their executive control to threatening stimuli and internal worry, in turn reducing the amount of attention given to goal-directed tasks. Within this framework, research has shown that anxious individuals experience higher workload when performing identical tasks as non-anxious individuals. This project examined whether levels of anxiety are predictive of perceived workload, working memory capacity, and performance on the LCT. I hypothesized that individuals with higher anxiety would perform worse on the primary task (LCT) and the secondary task (n-back), as well as incur a higher perceived workload. Results showed that performance on the LCT worsened and perceived difficulty did indeed increase in response to progressively difficult conditions. While aggression was predictive of worsening driving performance, increased anxiety actually resulted in better driving performance in the easy condition. Perceived workload was primarily driven by participants being more emotion-focused and having higher levels of hazard monitoring. These findings are expanded on in the context of the Transactional Model of Driver Stress, as well as limitations and recommendations for future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Strybel, Thomas Z.
Commitee: Miles, James, Hancock, Gabriella
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 82/4(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Anxiety, Cognitive load, Driving, Human factors, LCT
Publication Number: 27837398
ISBN: 9798684675225
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