BELLINGHAM - How blind to their surroundings can people be when they're talking on their cell phones?
Enough to miss seeing a clown - wearing bright purple and yellow clothes, with a red nose and big red shoes - riding a unicycle near them as they walked across Red Square on the Western Washington University campus, according to a study conducted by a WWU professor and his students.
"That cell phone really disrupts things," said Ira Hyman, psychology professor.
So much so that 75 percent of the people who were walking and talking on their phones didn't see the clown - until he was pointed out to them.
"The interesting thing is they turned back around and they were surprised they missed the unicycling clown," Hyman said.
While the idea of cell phone users being so oblivious they fail to see a unicycling clown is humorous, Hyman said the implications are serious and show that people shouldn't be talking on their cell while driving.
His work will be published in December in the print edition of Applied Cognitive Psychology, although it already is on the journal's Web site.
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