Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Bradshaw, L. Gary

Committee Member

Williams, Carrick

Committee Member

Giesen, J. Martin

Committee Member

McCarley, S. Jason

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Cognitive Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Previous research suggests that cellular phone conversations or similar auditory/conversational tasks lead to degradations in visual processing. Three contemporary theories make different claims about the nature of the degradation that occurs when we talk on a cellular phone. We are either: (a) disproportionately more likely to miss objects located in the most peripheral areas of the visual environment due to a reduction in the size of the attentional window or functional field of view (Atchley & Dressel, 2004); (b) more likely to miss objects from all areas of the visual environment (even at the center of fixation) because attention is withdrawn from the roadway, leading to inattention blindness or general interference (Strayer & Drews, 2006; Crundall, Underwood, & Chapman, 1999; 2002), or (c) more likely to miss objects that are located on the side of the visual environment contralateral to the cellular phone message due to crossmodal links in spatial attention (Driver & Spence, 2004). These three theories were compared by asking participants to complete central and peripheral visual tasks (i.e., a measure of the functional field of view) in isolation and in combination with an auditory task. During the combined visual/auditory task, peripheral visual targets could appear on the same side as auditory targets or on the opposite side. When the congruency between auditory and visual target locations was not considered (as is typical in previous research), the results were consistent with the general interference/inattention blindness theory, but not the reduced functional field of view theory. Yet, when congruency effects were considered, the results support the theory that crossmodal links affect the spatial allocation of attention: Participants were better at detecting and localizing visual peripheral targets and at generating words for the auditory task if attention was directed to the same location in both modalities.



crossmodal attention||cellular phones||distraction||useful field of view