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Ergonomics. 2014;57(7):998-1007. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2014.909952. Epub 2014 Apr 30.

Drivers' and non-drivers' performance in a change detection task with static driving scenes: is there a benefit of experience?

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a State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences , Beijing , China.


The 'looked-but-failed-to-see' phenomenon is crucial to driving safety. Previous research utilising change detection tasks related to driving has reported inconsistent effects of driver experience on the ability to detect changes in static driving scenes. Reviewing these conflicting results, we suggest that drivers' increased ability to detect changes will only appear when the task requires a pattern of visual attention distribution typical of actual driving. By adding a distant fixation point on the road image, we developed a modified change blindness paradigm and measured detection performance of drivers and non-drivers. Drivers performed better than non-drivers only in scenes with a fixation point. Furthermore, experience effect interacted with the location of the change and the relevance of the change to driving. These results suggest that learning associated with driving experience reflects increased skill in the efficient distribution of visual attention across both the central focus area and peripheral objects.


This article provides an explanation for the previously conflicting reports of driving experience effects in change detection tasks. We observed a measurable benefit of experience in static driving scenes, using a modified change blindness paradigm. These results have translational opportunities for picture-based training and testing tools to improve driver skill.


change blindness; change detection; driving experience; driving scenes; visual attention distribution

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