Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 15–21

Driving impairs talking


  • Ensar Becic
    • Beckman InstituteUniversity of Illinois
    • Beckman InstituteUniversity of Illinois
  • Kathryn Bock
    • Beckman InstituteUniversity of Illinois
  • Susan M. Garnsey
    • Beckman InstituteUniversity of Illinois
  • Tate Kubose
    • Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting
  • Arthur F. Kramer
    • Beckman InstituteUniversity of Illinois
Brief Reports

DOI: 10.3758/PBR.17.1.15

Cite this article as:
Becic, E., Dell, G.S., Bock, K. et al. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2010) 17: 15. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.1.15


It is well known that conversation (e.g, on a cell phone) impairs driving. We demonstrate that the reverse is also true: Language production and comprehension, and the encoding of the products of comprehension into memory, are less accurate when one is driving. Ninety-six pairs of drivers and conversation partners engaged in a story-retelling task in a driving simulator. Half of the pairs were older adults. Each pair completed one dual-task block (driving during the retelling task) and two single-task control blocks. The results showed a decline in the accuracy of the drivers’ storytelling and of their memory for stories that were told to them by their nondriving partners. Speech production suffered an additional cost when the difficulty of driving increased. Measures of driving performance suggested that the drivers gave priority to the driving task when they were conversing. As a result, their linguistic performance suffered.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010