London: A study on the dangers of talking on a mobile while driving has found that even a passenger’s phone call is enough to distract the driver.
Researchers say that hearing one side of a phone conversation can affect concentration more than being part of it, as a ‘halfalogue’ is up to three times as big a drain on the brain as a dialogue or monologue.
The American researchers set a group of students computerised tests that simulated the levels of concentration needed to keep in a lane when driving or react to traffic lights.
As they did the tests, they heard recordings of complete mobile phone conversations, one-person summaries of the conversations or just one side of the call. Others did the tests in silence.
According to the journal Psychological Science, those who listened to the ‘halfalogues’ did significantly worse.
The reason for it is believed to be that as well as trying to fill in the gaps in the conversation the brain is flummoxed by the unpredictability of the gaps and pauses.
“Overhearing someone on a cell phone means only hearing half of an ongoing conversation – a ‘halfalogue’,” a news daily quoted Lauren Emberson, of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, as saying.
The researcher, a psychology PhD candidate, came up with the idea for the study while becoming irritated during a journey on a bus as an undergraduate.