Recent technological developments in active advanced driver assistance systems and in-car infotainment devices have contributed to reducing the number and severity of road accidents as well as improving and simplifying driver experience. However, these systems may impact driving performance in undesired ways, especially when emotionally-charged stimuli are used as warning signals. Emotional distraction can be a serious danger, causing delays in information processing, and reducing driving safety below minimal acceptable levels. Here we study the effect of emotionally-laden auditory signals on the speed of concurrent driving decisions. We distinguished two categories of behavioural responses: ‘urgent’ vs ‘evaluative’. In the experiments reported here participants were quicker to evaluate whether a traffic scene was risky or not after hearing an emotionally-charged auditory stimulus than after a neutral one. However, urgent (braking) responses to the same scenes were not affected by the emotional quality of the auditory signal. Based on these results, we give preliminary advice on the design of guidelines for in-car interfaces particularly in the field of affective in-car computing.
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