Effects of multitasking and intention–behaviour consistency when facing yellow traffic light uncertainty Academic Article uri icon


  • We examined the effects of multitasking on resolving response bistability to yellow traffic lights, using the performance metrics of reaction time and stopping frequency. We also examined whether people's actual behaviours, measured by implicit foot pedal responses, differed from their intentions related to these factors, as measured by explicit verbal commands. In a dual-task paradigm, participants responded to random traffic light changes, presented over a static background photograph of an intersection, using either foot pedals or verbal commands, while simultaneously identifying spoken words as either "animals" or "artefacts" via button pressing. The dual-task condition was found to prolong reaction times relative to a single-task condition. In addition, verbal commands were faster than the foot pedal responses, and conservativeness was the same for both types of responses. A second experiment, which provided a more dynamic simulation of the first experiment, confirmed that conservativeness did not differ between verbal commands and foot pedal responses. We conclude that multitasking affects a person's ability to resolve response bistability to yellow traffic lights. If one considers that prolonged reaction times reduce the amount of distance available to safely stop at intersections, this study underscores how multitasking poses a considerable safety risk for drivers approaching a yellow traffic light.

publication date

  • 2019