The crosstalk hypothesis: why language interferes with driving

Bergen, B., Medeiros-Ward, N., Wheeler, K., Drews, F, and Strayer, D.
American Psychological Association

This U.S. study examined whether language might interfere with driving when it has a visual or motor content. A total of 93 participants took part in the study and their ages ranged from 18 to 32 years. Participants drove on a simulator for 16.1kms on a multilane interstate with on- and off-ramps, overpasses, and two- or three-lane traffic in each direction with daytime driving conditions. To investigate effects of language use on simultaneous driving performance, participants drove along the same roadway in four different language conditions in a block design. Participants listened to 32 single-sentence statements through the car speakers, half were true, and half were false. There were three language conditions, motor, visual, and abstract, and the participant was required to answer “true” or “false” to each.

Results indicated that braking reactions were slower in all three critical language conditions than in the control condition. Furthermore, following distance was significantly greater in the visual condition than in the abstract and control conditions, and in the motor condition, it was greater than the abstract and control conditions. Overall, results revealed that language use interferes with driving when the linguistic content overlaps with the motor routines used to control a vehicle.

Bergen, B., Medeiros-Ward, N., Wheeler, K., Drews, F., & Strayer, D. (2013). The crosstalk hypothesis: why language interferes with driving. Journal of experimental psychology: general, 142(1), 119.