Exploring the ability to identify visual search differences when observing drivers’ eye movements

Panos Konstantopoulos, Peter Chapman, David Crundall

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    How can we improve learner drivers’ visual skills? Much research has demonstrated that learner drivers have an impoverished spread of search during driving and that this is partly due to lack of knowledge of where and when to look, rather than simply an issue of cognitive load. Several training interventions have tried to improve scanning in these drivers with limited success. We propose that exposing drivers to examples of good and bad scanning behaviour may prove to be a useful tool in training visual search. The success of this approach, however, requires drivers to be able to distinguish between examples of good and bad scanning. To this end, two studies were undertaken where video clips of simulated driving with an overlaid eye movement trace were presented to participants who had to judge whether the eye movements were that of a learner driver or a driving instructor. Overall, participants found this discrimination task very difficult. However, the findings suggested that novice and learner drivers were able to correctly classify those eye movement traces of other learner drivers better than chance. It was also demonstrated that the ability to distinguish between the eye movements of learner drivers and driving instructors improved as the number of objective differences between the two groups increased across specific scenarios (as determined by frame-by-frame analysis using a priori categories). The results suggest that, under certain situations, drivers can extract information about the appropriateness of a particular scanning strategy just by watching a video of the eye movement trace. The implications for training interventions are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)378–386
    JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Author's note: - Several training interventions use experts’ eye movements in order to facilitate a more
    effective search pattern on young novice drivers. Yet, there is no clear evidence to validate
    this method. This novel study examined the ability of participants to discriminate novice and
    expert visual scanning when they saw driving videos with eye movements overlaid. The
    practical implications of the study are directly related to future development of training
    interventions. Also, the findings showed that discriminating “good” and “bad” scanning
    behaviour is very difficult as a task but certain suggestions were provided to make this task
    more effective. On the theoretical grounds the output of the paper can have extensions to the
    area of eye movement introspection and visual search. Although the paper was recently
    published and it is too early to evaluate its academic contribution it certainly provided proof
    of concept for future training modules. This research area is somehow underdeveloped and
    hopefully the output of the paper will assist future research.


    • Driving instructors
    • Learner drivers
    • Driving training
    • Eye movements


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