Age-Related Changes in Cognitive Response Style in the Driving Task

Age-Related Changes in Cognitive Response Style in the Driving Task

Previous AgeLab research showed different patterns of physiological response were observed between younger and older drivers during a simulated cellular telephone conversation. Results of the study indicate that while younger drivers showed heart rate acceleration during the cell phone task, older adult drivers, as a group, showed no change. Questioning the apparent lack of reaction in the older drivers, and considering the literature on sensory intake and rejection which suggests that heart rate can increase or decrease depending on how individuals attend to cognitive processing demands, we then examined the data for presence of subgroups of heart rate response among each age group. This analysis revealed that there were individuals who showed heart rate acceleration and those who showed non-acceleration or deceleration reactions in both age groups, demonstrating that the overall difference in heart rate response was not a fixed pattern associated with aging, but a difference in the relative percentage of individuals expressing each response style. Current inquiry is examining the potential for differences in response style by age group using a more complex cognitive task that may further elucidate the effect of the secondary task on driving performance. Interactions between response style and age on simulated driving performance will be investigated. If significant, these interactions would suggest that in addition to age, response style is a major contributor to driving performance. The increasing presence of complex secondary tasks in the automobile suggests that outcomes of this research could significantly inform the design of future in-vehicle systems, and the development of regulation and education on the use of in-vehicle technology among different operators

 

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