Texting while Driving on Automatic: Considering the Frequency-Independent Side of Habit

Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan, 105 South State Street, Ann Arbor, 48103 MI, United States
Computers in Human Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.69). 08/2012; 28(6). DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.06.012

ABSTRACT This study tested the potential of the frequency-independent components of habit, or automaticity, to predict the rate of texting while driving. A survey of 441 college students at a large American university was conducted utilizing a frequency-independent version of the experimentally validated Self-Report Habit Index (SRHI; Orbell & Verplanken, 2010; Verplanken & Orbell, 2003). Controlling for gender, age, and driver confidence, analyses showed that automatic texting tendencies predicted both sending and reading texts while driving. The findings suggest that texting while driving behavior may be partially attributable to individuals doing so without awareness, control, attention, and intention regarding their own actions. The unique contribution of automaticity explained more variance than overall individual usage, and remained significant even after accounting for norms, attitudes, and perceived behavioral con-trol. The results demonstrate the importance of distinguishing the level of automaticity from behavioral frequency in mobile communication research. Future applications and implications for research are discussed.

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