Two visual systems in monitoring of dynamic traffic: Effects of visual disruption

Xianjun Sam Zheng, George W. McConkie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies from neurophysiology and neuropsychology provide support for two separate object- and location-based visual systems, ventral and dorsal. In the driving context, a study was conducted using a change detection paradigm to explore drivers' ability to monitor the dynamic traffic flow, and the effects of visual disruption on these two visual systems. While driving, a discrete change, such as vehicle location, color, or identity, was occasionally made in one of the vehicles on the road ahead of the driver. Experiment results show that without visual disruption, all changes were detected very well; yet, these equally perceivable changes were disrupted differently by a brief blank display (150 ms): the detection of location changes was especially reduced. The disruption effects were also bigger for the parked vehicle compared to the moving ones. The findings support the different roles for two visual systems in monitoring the dynamic traffic: the "where", dorsal system, tracks vehicle spatiotemporal information on perceptual level, encoding information in a coarse and transient manner; whereas the "what", ventral system, monitors vehicles' featural information, encoding information more accurately and robustly. Both systems work together contributing to the driver's situation awareness of traffic. Benefits and limitations of using the driving simulation are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-928
Number of pages8
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Driving
  • Driving simulation
  • Situation awareness
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Visual disruption
  • Visual systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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