Drivers’ cue utilization predicts cognitive resource consumption during a simulated driving scenario

Daniel Sturman*, Mark W. Wiggins

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: This study was designed to examine whether cue utilization differentiates drivers’ consumption of cognitive resources during a simulated driving task. Background: Outcomes from previous research have demonstrated that a general capacity for cue utilization differentiates cognitive load during novel process control tasks. However, it was previously unclear whether similar results would be demonstrated during familiar operational tasks. Method: Based on an assessment of cue utilization within a driving context, participants were classified into higher or lower cue utilization typologies. During a simulated driving task, cognitive load was assessed through changes against baseline in cerebral oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex, through eye behavior metrics (fixation rates and fixation dispersion), and through driving performance (frequency of missed traffic signals and speed exceedances). Results: Drivers with higher cue utilization recorded smaller mean fixation dispersions, smaller increases in cerebral oxygenation, and fewer missed traffic signals compared with drivers with lower cue utilization. These results suggest that compared with drivers with lower cue utilization, drivers with higher cue utilization experienced lower cognitive load during the simulated driving task while maintaining a higher level of performance. Conclusion: The results provide support for the assertion that, among qualified operators, a greater capacity for cue utilization is associated with lower cognitive load during operational tasks. Application: Cue-based assessments of driving may be beneficial in predicting performance and assisting in targeted training for recently qualified and/or older drivers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)402–414
    Number of pages13
    JournalHuman Factors
    Issue number3
    Early online date13 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


    • attentional processes
    • cue utilization
    • driver behavior
    • eye movements
    • mental workload
    • near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)


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