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Animal-looking cars could cut road deaths

Left: Researchers say that the human eye is naturally attuned to animal shapes

Road safety campaigners could cut the road death rate by lobbying for cars to be made to look more like animals, claim researchers.

New studies show that people’s brains are unconsciously attuned to detecting the movement of animals, rather than inanimate objects such as cars, because avoiding predators played such a key part in the survival of our ancestors.

Joshua New of Yale University and Professors John Tooby and Leda Cosmides of the University of California, Santa Barbara, studied what the human brain considers be important to survival.

They claim that the modern human brain inherits the visual priorities of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and is still more likely to track animals than cars and trucks. Human visual systems have learned over time that animal movement is vital to survival, even though now our eyes see many more cars and our survival now is more dependant on avoiding moving cars than, say, a tiger.

“The ability to quickly detect changes in the state and location of vehicles on the highway has life-or-death consequences,” say the authors, “yet subjects were better at detecting changes to non-human animals, an ability that had life-or-death consequences for our hunter-gatherer ancestors but is merely a distraction in modern cities and suburbs.”
 

27 January 2009



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