Maximizing the morning commute: a randomized trial assessing the effect of driving on podcast knowledge acquisition and retention
Gottlieb M, Riddell J, Cooney R, et al. Ann Emerg Med. Published online April 27, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2021.02.030
Whether the “distraction” of driving influences knowledge acquisition or retention from emergency medicine podcasts is currently unknown.
This study is a clever multicenter randomized crossover trial comparing knowledge acquisition while driving compared with being seated in a room, and subsequent knowledge retention.
The authors describe 2 contrasting theories related to learning while doing other things (the limited-capacity model of motivated mediated message processing theory and the threaded cognition theory), which have essentially opposing views on whether people can learn while driving.
Residents from 4 training programs from across the U.S. were randomized to the intervention group (driving first) or the control group (seated first), and stratified by site and postgraduate year.
The driving group listened to a 30-minute podcast consisting of a discussion of 5 journal articles while continuously driving for 30 minutes, and the control group listened to the same podcast while seated at home, without concurrently performing other activities. Both groups were told to listen to the podcast in a continuous block of time (not in parts).
After listening, participants took a 20-item knowledge-assessment test and then crossed over and listened to a different second podcast in the other condition and took a second knowledge-assessment test.
One month later, recall was assessed with a third question set with 40 items.
A total of 100 residents were randomized, all of whom completed the immediate questionnaires and 96 of whom completed the 1-month questionnaires.
The mean immediate scores were comparable (74.2% driving vs 73.3% seated), as were the delayed-learning scores (52.2% driving vs 52.0% seated).
However, when asked about self-perceived confidence in their knowledge acquisition, participants were more confident about what they had learned in the seated condition (70%) than in the driving condition (63%).
Study limitations include that the participants were residents, there was no way to ensure that they listened to the podcast all at once, they might have looked up information or might have already been familiar with the topics (although the authors went to great lengths to minimize this possibility), a Hawthorne effect could have occurred (even though the participants did not know the study hypothesis, they knew that they were being tested), and whether factors making the drive more stressful (eg, unfamiliar routes or traffic) affected the findings is unknown.
EDITOR’S COMMENTARY: In this multicenter randomized crossover trial, the authors found that listening to a literature review podcast (essentially EMA) while driving, compared with a seated and undistracted condition, did not decrease immediate knowledge acquisition or delay knowledge retention. If you are driving, no need to pull over to process this summary!
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