Conference Proceeding

Mental Workload as a Function of Traffic Density: Comparison of Physiological, Behavioral, and Subjective Indices

  • Carryl L Baldwin (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA)
  • Maria T Coyne (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA)


High traffic density can be expected to increase the attentional processing requirements of driving. Establishing methods of assessing the differential demands placed on drivers by environmental variables has been the focus of a recent series of investigations. Results of an initial examination of the impact of traffic density on mental workload are reported here. The current investigation utilizes an array of methodological assessment techniques and compares the sensitivity of each to changes in attentional processing requirements as a function of driving task demand. Analogous versions of a visual and auditory sensory detection task were developed and used in a dual task paradigm involving simulated driving. P300 amplitude, though in the predicted direction, failed to distinguish between increased task demands resulting from increases in traffic density. Response time and accuracy to the detection task in both visual and auditory modalities demonstrated significant processing decrements as a function of increased traffic density. Subjective workload ratings obtained from the NASA TLX did not distinguish between driving task difficulty, but indicated that performing the visual detection task in combination with driving was perceived as more difficult than performing the concurrent auditory task. Implications of these results for modeling differential aspects of mental workload and for establishing workload assessment techniques for surface transportation environments are discussed.

How to Cite:

Baldwin, C. & Coyne, M., (2003) “Mental Workload as a Function of Traffic Density: Comparison of Physiological, Behavioral, and Subjective Indices”, Driving Assessment Conference 2(2003), 19-24. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2003 the authors

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Published on
22 Jul 2003
Peer Reviewed