Where do people direct their attention while cycling? A comparison of adults and children
Journal article, 2018
Cycling in urban environments requires the ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant targets quickly and reliably, so that potential hazards can be anticipated and avoided. In two experiments, we investigated where adults and children direct their attention when viewing videos filmed from a cyclist's perspective. We wanted to see if there were any differences in the responses given by experienced adult cyclists, inexperienced adult cyclists, and child cyclists. In Experiment 1, 16 adults (19–33 years) were asked to watch ten videos and to point out things they would pay attention to by tapping a touchscreen (pointed out locations). Afterwards, they were asked to explain their answers. In Experiment 2, 17 adults (19–34 years) and 17 children (11–12 years) performed the same task with the same ten videos, but they were not asked to explain their answers afterwards. The data sets from these two experiments were pooled, creating three groups: ten experienced adult cyclists, 23 inexperienced adult cyclists and 17 children. A total of 23 clearly visible, traffic-relevant targets (pre-specified targets) had previously been identified in the videos. We investigated whether the participants’ pointed-out locations matched these targets (and if so, how fast they responded in pointing them out). We also investigated the number and vertical/horizontal dispersion of these pointed-out locations on the touchscreen. Adults pointed out more locations than children, especially pedestrians and cyclists. This result suggests that, while children focussed as well as adults on cars (arguably the most salient hazard), they were less able to identify other hazards (such as pedestrians or other cyclists). The children had also a larger vertical dispersion and a larger between-participant variation than the adults. Adults were faster at tapping the pre-specified targets and they missed them less often. Overall, the results suggest that 11–12 year old-cyclists have worse situation awareness in traffic than adults.