Why walkers slip: shine is not a reliable cue for slippery ground.

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In a series of four studies, we investigated the visual cues that walkers use to predict slippery ground surfaces and tested whether visual information is reliable for specifying low-friction conditions. In Study 1, 91% of participants surveyed responded that they would use shine to identify upcoming slippery ground. Studies 2-4 confirmed participants' reliance on shine to predict slip. Participants viewed ground surfaces varying in gloss, paint color, and viewing distance under indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. Shine and slip ratings and functional walking judgments were related to surface gloss level and to surface coefficient of friction (COF). However, judgments were strongly affected by surface color, viewing distance, and lighting conditions--extraneous factors that do not change the surface COF. Results suggest that, although walkers rely on shine to predict slippery ground, shine is not a reliable visual cue for friction. Poor visual information for friction may underlie the high prevalence of friction-related slips and falls.





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