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Richard M. Wilkie, Damian R. Poulter, John P. Wann; Where you look when you learn to steer. Journal of Vision 2004;4(8):1. doi: 10.1167/4.8.1.
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Learning to drive successfully requires effective synchronisation of a range of visuo-motor tasks, not least the use of gaze to sample appropriately from the visual world whilst steering. In Wilkie & Wann (2003) we found characteristic gaze patterns associated with accurate steering: exploring the centre of the road 1–2 seconds ahead. Here we wished to observe how novice drivers used their gaze to sample information from a simulated roadway, and whether their patterns of fixation changed after learning. The participants were asked to steer as close to the centre of a computer-simulated roadway as possible. We recorded the deviation of their position on the road and used an eye tracker to record their point of gaze. There were 6 pre-test trials, 24 learning trials, 6 post-test trials, and then 6 transfer trials on a novel but matched roadway. Significant improvement in road position was observed between the pre-test and post-test trials, and this was not simply due to memorisation of the course since the improvement was maintained in the transfer trials. To determine whether changes in gaze behaviour could explain the improvements in steering we examined where participants looked on the roadway before and after training. We did not observe any increase in the amount of time spent fixating either the tangent point of the roadway or the centre of the road; instead the improvement seemed to be related to a small, but significant, increase in look-ahead distance. We examined the angle of gaze and the rate of change of steering in the Fourier domain and observed a significant increase in lead-time of gaze over steering with an associated increase in the gain between gaze and steering. We conclude that this change in the phase and gain reflects improved coupling between gaze and steering, supporting effective cueing of control through prospective judgements of curvature and course.
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