Article

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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    • "Automaticity can also be used as a means of differentiating among individuals who are more or less likely to engage in particular behaviors automatically (Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010). Previous research demonstrates a link between the tendency to engage in texting automatically and the rate that college students report texting while driving, controlling for texting frequency and other conscious factors such as attitudes and norms (Bayer & Campbell, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: The problems of distracted driving and distracted pedestrian accidents have attracted the attention of public health officials, transportation and psychology researchers, and communication scholars. Though public safety campaigns intended to curb dangerous texting behaviors have been implemented, relatively little is known about the psychological processes involved in these behaviors. Our study integrates emerging research on automatic behavior, self-control, and mindfulness in an attempt to explain why many individuals believe that such behavior is dangerous but engage in it anyway. Our survey study (N = 925) of college students (n = 313) and adults (n = 612) revealed that texting automaticity, trait self-control, and the “acting with awareness” facet of trait mindfulness were all uniquely predictive of texting while driving as well as texting while walking. Further, we observe that texting automaticity is more strongly related to the frequency of texting while walking than driving. Together, the findings synthesize disparate strands of research on cognition and media use and demonstrate the importance of distinguishing among types of consciousness to understanding mobile communication behavior.
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    • "Over the long-term, the same non-conscious processes that save time on a normal basis can come to obtrude personal goals of the moment. Understanding connection cues may help in explaining puzzling outcomes of mobile media use ranging from dangerous driving (e.g., Bayer & Campbell, 2012) to frivolous checking (e.g., Drouin et al., 2012). Likewise, connection cues may contribute to overly routinized patterns of communication. "
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    • "Their use can become an automated habit, driven by internal factors, such as the need to constantly stay informed and in touch with the social network, or by external triggers, i.e. a sound emitted by the phone. These triggers can appear at any time and in any situation, and consequently also while driving (Bayer and Campbell, 2012). "
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