A Canadian film crew shooting for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was on campus Friday, Jan. 22, to film Western Washington University professor Ira Hyman and to re-stage (with WWU's Joe Myers on unicycle) Hyman's research on cell phone use for a documentary. The film crew, from Merit Motion Pictures in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is shooting a documentary called "Information Overload" for the CBC; the documentary likely will air sometime in the fall on the Discovery Channel in the United States, but nothing is yet set in stone.
According to Hyman's research, people talking on their cell phones are more than twice as oblivious as those not on their phones.
In his research, Hyman documented real-world examples of people who were so distracted by their cell phones that they failed to see the bizarre occurrence of a unicycling clown passing them as they walked. The study is published in a recent issue of the journal “Applied Cognitive Psychology.”
“If people experience so much difficulty performing the task of walking when on a cell phone, just think of what this means when put into the context of driving safety,” Hyman said. “People should not drive while talking on a cell phone.”
In Hyman’s study, just 25 percent of people talking on their cell phones saw the unicycling clown, whereas more than half of people walking alone, people listening to portable music players and people walking in pairs saw the clown.
“Cell phone use causes people to be oblivious to their surroundings while engaged in even a simple task such as walking,” Hyman said. “Cell phone users walk more slowly, change directions and weave more often and fail to notice interesting and novel objects. The effect appears to be caused by the distraction of a cell phone conversation, because people walking in pairs did not display the same range of problems.”
Another finding of the study, Hyman said, is that a person’s familiarity with his or her environment does not eliminate the effects of cell phone use on navigation.