Image of Richard Backs
  • Position: Experimental Faculty, Director of Center for Driving Evaluation, Education, and Research
  • Department: Psychology
  • Campus Address:​ Sloan 220, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
  • Email:
  • Vitae: Curri​​culum vitae

Website: Driving Evaluat​ion, Education and Research Center


Richard W. Backs received his P​h.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Southern California in 1984. He has previously held appointments at Occidental College, Washington University, the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, and Wright State University, conducting research in Human Factors Engineering. He has been at Central Michigan University since 1995.

Research Interest:

My research is an area I define as the psychophysiology of attention in human performance. It emphasizes the applied aspects of attention theory, and my recent studies have examined autonomic (electrocardiographic, impedance cardiographic, and pulmonary) and central (EEG and event-related potential) measures concurrently during focused and divided attention tasks in the laboratory and in the driving simulator. I have adopted a cognitive/energetic perspective to account for how cognition is affected by factors such as emotion and environmental and task stressors. I am also interested in how aging affects the psychophysiology of attention, especially during driving.

Recent Research:

Lenneman, J. K., & Backs, R. W. (2018). A psychophysiological and driving performance evaluation of focal and ambient visual processing demands in simulated driving. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 84-96.

da Silva, S. P., & Backs, R. W. (2015). Cardiac response during auditory selective attention to tones and affective sounds. Psychophysiology. DOI: 10.1111/psyp.12432

Oliver, M.L., Han, K., Bos, A.J., & Backs, R. W. (2015). The relationship between ADHD symptoms and driving behavior in college students: The mediating effects of negative emotions and emotion control. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 30, 14-21.

Domeyer J.E., Cassavaugh N.D., & Backs R.W. (2013). The use of adaptation to reduce simulator sickness in driving assessment and research. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 53, 127-132.

Oliver, M.L., Nigg, J.T., Cassavaugh, N. D., & Backs, R. W.  (2012). Behavioral and cardiovascular responses to frustration during simulated driving tasks in young adults with and without attention disorder symptoms. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16, 478-490. doi 10.1177/1087054710397132.

Musser, E.D, Backs, R.W., Schmitt, C.F, Ablow, J.C., Measelle, J.R., & Nigg, J.T. (2011). Emotion regulation via the autonomic nervous system in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 841-852. doi 10.1007/s10802-011-9499-1.

Lenneman, J. K., & Backs, R. W. (2009). Cardiac autonomic control during simulated driving with a concurrent verbal working memory task. Human Factors, 51, 404-418.

da Silva, S. P., Hulce, V. D., & Backs, R. W. (2009). Effects of obstructive sleep apnea on autonomic cardiac control during sleep. Sleep and Breathing, 13, 147-156.

Wetzel, J. M., Quigley, K., S., Morell, J., Eves, E., & Backs, R. W. (2006). Cardiovascular measures of attention to illusory and non-illusory visual stimuli.  Journal of Psychophysiology, 20, 276-285.

Backs, R. W., Rohdy, J., Barnard, J. (2005). Cardiac control during dual-task performance of visual or auditory monitoring with visual-manual tracking. Psychologia: An International Journal of Psychology in the Orient, 48, 66-83.

Backs, R. W., da Silva, S. P., & Han, K. (2005). A comparison of younger and older adults' Self-Assessment Manikin ratings of affective pictures. Experimental Aging Research, 31, 1-20.