Crossing the road while playing a mobile game app - Effects of age, environmental load and game complexity

Rokni Danielle, Tapiro Hagai, Parmet Yisrael, Oron Gilad Tal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Children are a high-risk group for motor vehicle injuries, and characterized also by extensive use of mobile phones. We investigated the influence of playing a mobile phone game on crossing behavior of children relative to adults. Our hypotheses were that: a) game use will affect pedestrian’s crossing behavior for all age groups; and b) increase in the complexity of the game will cause greater impact on crossing behavior.

Twenty-seven children and twenty-one adults (mean=25.3, sd=1.5) participated. Children were divided into two ages; nine children aged 9-10 (mean=9.2, sd=0.4), and eighteen children aged 11-13 (mean=11.9, sd=0.6).

The experiment took place in our Dome pedestrian simulator. Twelve simulated street-crossing scenarios, each lasting for 60-90 seconds; six in each environmental load (high/low clutter). Scenarios were presented from a pedestrian point of view, as if they were standing on the curb on one side of the road facing to the other side of a two lane street with two-way traffic. Street surround sounds were embedded in the scene.

A dedicated smartphone game was built. The aim of the game was to identify as many dots in a predefined color specified for the participant at the beginning of the game. Identification is implemented by clicking on the desired color dot. The complexity of the game depended on the dots’ appearance rate on the screen, the dots’ growing rate, and the allowed overlap between different dots.

Participants were asked to decide when to cross the virtual road, and indicate their decision by pressing a foot pedal. Each pedal step and its time of occurrence was recorded and the scenario was then stopped. In eight out of the twelve scenarios (four in each load), participants were asked to play the game while attempting to cross the road.

Safety gap was significantly shorter when the complexity of the game was high and the visual load was low, for all age groups. No change in safety gap was found while using the mobile phone in a high load environment for 11-13 year-olds and adults. Hence, they maintained the same performance, with or without the use of the phone and regardless of game complexity. This was not the case for those aged 9-10, whose performance suffered as a result of the use of the phone, especially in the high level of game complexity.

Possibly, in loaded environments the 11-13 and adults balanced their attention between the crossing environment and the game, something they have not done in cases of low environmental load. It seems that, only when the environment was more complex, these two age groups ‘put their phone aside’ and turned their attention on the crossing task, which they may have regarded as more difficult under these conditions. However, children aged 9-10 have not been able to do so. Presumably, the environmental load did not change their behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2017 International Annual Meeting, HFES 2017
PublisherHuman Factors an Ergonomics Society Inc.
Number of pages1
ISBN (Electronic)9780945289531
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
EventHuman Factors and Ergonomics Society 2017 International Annual Meeting, HFES 2017 - Austin, United States
Duration: 9 Oct 201713 Oct 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
ISSN (Print)1071-1813


ConferenceHuman Factors and Ergonomics Society 2017 International Annual Meeting, HFES 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


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