Mind Your Step: the Effects of Mobile Phone Use on Gaze Behavior in Stair Climbing

Flora Ioannidou, Frouke Hermens*, Timothy L Hodgson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Stair walking is a hazardous activity and a common cause of fatal and non-fatal falls. Previous studies have assessed the role of eye movements in stair walking by asking people to repeatedly go up and down stairs in quiet and controlled conditions, while the role of peripheral vision was examined by giving participants specific fixation instructions or working memory tasks. We here extend this research to stair walking in a natural environment with other people present on the stairs and a now common secondary task: using one's mobile phone. Results show that using the mobile phone strongly draws one's attention away from the stairs, but that the distribution of gaze locations away from the phone is little influenced by using one's phone. Phone use also increased the time needed to walk the stairs, but handrail use remained low. These results indicate that limited foveal vision suffices for adequate stair walking in normal environments, but that mobile phone use has a strong influence on attention, which may pose problems when unexpected obstacles are encountered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of technology in behavioral science
Issue number3
Early online date28 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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