Driving is Multitasking, Beware!

Young woman in headphones driver car with a wheel, auto conceptHave you ever had to turn down the music in order to find parking or an address you’ve never been to? It seems totally ridiculous. Music is for listening with your ears, and parking is something you find with your eyes. It turns out, this may not be as ridiculous as it seems. In an article by sharpbrains.com, Dr. Steven Yantis explains that when attention is deployed to one of the five senses, the others are extruded from “necessarily”.

It all comes back to the notion that humans are scientifically bad at multitasking. Does this mean that when we are listening to the radio, we can’t see? No, but there is a certain threshold and the more information we are receiving, the more we have to divide it between our senses. For instance, if we are driving and listening to the radio, chances are we aren’t actively listening and interpreting every lyric in the song. Ricky O’Bannon, at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, describes it like this:


An active listener is intellectually engaged and might be processing the musical decisions involved or singing along to lyrics. For a passive listener, music is a background activity and often complementary to another task on which the listener is focusing their attention.”


Interesting, it’s like our ears are going on autopilot. That’s why we can still drive effectively. However, many of the actions in driving are on autopilot too. The whole practice of driving is a huge multitasking event, but once you get moving you’ll notice that most aspects, from acceleration and deceleration to moving left and right, have kind of taken control of themselves and your mind is left open to focus on the directions and the surrounding traffic.

Be mindful of the way you drive. Keep yourself and your passengers safe and make the road a better place!

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