Over the years everyone has heard that we shouldn’t text while driving, and maybe even not at the dinner table, but what we are just starting to understand is that when we text we are actually blocking out a very import part of ourselves; our 6th sense.
Researchers from the University of Houston teamed up with Texas A&M Transportation Institute and decided to look at three very important factors surrounded texting. These three factors were texting while driving, being upset while driving, and being absentminded while driving.
Robert Wunderlich and Ioannis Pavlidis lead the researchers to find out how these three factors can influence our driving. In the study, they used 59 volunteers who would drive a certain section of the freeway 4 different times. First, they would focus solely on driving, the second round they would be distracted by challenging questions, the third round would be driving while being emotionally charged and the last was driving while texting.
After all the drivers were evaluated they calculated the results. During the absent minded, texting, and emotionally based driving the volunteers had a harder time driving normal.
During the texting, the drivers had some jittery handling which would cause unsafe conditions such as overcorrecting.
During absentminded and emotionally charging driving the volunteers were better able to stay on track a bit better than the texting sessions but it was still worse than the normal safer driving.
“A likely explanation for this paradox is the function performed by a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC,” Pavlidis said. “ACC is known to automatically intervene as an error corrector when there is conflict. In this case, the conflict comes from the cognitive, emotional and sensorimotor, or texting, stressors. This raises the levels of physiological stress, funneling ‘fight or flight’ energy to the driver’s arms, resulting in jittery handling of the steering wheel.”
Pavlidis also explains that in the brain your ACC automatically steps in to counterbalance and compensate for the jittering. For example, if you were to jerk to the right then your brain will automatically do a counter jerk to the left so that you would keep driving straight. This happens even when we are stressed or a bit absent minded.
How Texting Messes With Our 6th Sense
When we are texting, however, our brain cannot coarse correct leaving us much more likely to make a mistake or overcompensate causing an accident.
Scientists believe that in order for our subconscious mind to jump in and help us drive we have to have our eyes on the road. Even if we aren’t paying attention our brain needs that data to make corrections.
When our eyes are on the screen of our phone our minds do not take in enough data to drive correctly or safely. This just goes to show how much information is constantly being absorbed by our body and mind. With or without our conscious awareness we are taking in data that at times could save our life.
It is possible that the gut feelings we get right before something bad happens comes from our senses picking up vibrations that our conscious mind has not detected yet. When we are distracted, especially with our attention on our phone we miss these important signals and cut off the flow of very important data that comes when we are at least looking in the right direction.
“The driver’s mind can wander and his or her feelings may boil, but a sixth sense keeps a person safe at least in terms of veering off course,” Pavlidis said. “What makes texting so dangerous is that it wreaks havoc into this sixth sense.
Self-driving cars may bypass this and other problems, but the moral of the story is that humans have their own auto systems that work wonders, until they break.”
What do you think about the 6th sense and the effects of texting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.