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Errors in young children's decisions about traffic gaps: experiments with roadside simulations

Thomson, J.A. (1992) Errors in young children's decisions about traffic gaps: experiments with roadside simulations. British Journal of Psychology, 83. pp. 189-202. ISSN 0007-1269

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Abstract

Young children's vulnerability as pedestrians has often been attributed to deficiencies in their decision making about vehicle approach times. Some studies have found a preponderance o f risky decisions below the age of eight years. In contrast, studies using a closer simulation of road crossing, known as the pretend road, have found a preponderance of overcautious decisions in young children: traffic gaps of adequate size were frequently rejected (missed opportunities). However, the pretend road has potentially distorting characteristics which may account for this divergent pattern of findings. The experiments reported below show that new simulations that eradicate distortions nevertheless validate the pattern of results produced with the pretend road. Differences between adults and young children were pronounced for missed opportunities, but not for risky decisions. Subsidiary analyses suggest that the risky decisions of the youngest children may have arisen through lapses in attention, rather than deficits in timing. These findings run contrary to the view that attributes young children's pedestrian vulnerability to perceptuo-motor deficiency.