What makes interruptions disruptive? A study of length, similarity, and complexity
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
Classic work on interruptions by Zeigarnik showed that tasks that were interrupted were more likely to be recalled after a delay than tasks that were not interrupted. Much of the literature on interruptions has been devoted to examining this effect, although more recently interruptions have been used to choose between competing designs for interfaces to complex devices. However, none of this work looks at what makes some interruptions disruptive and some not. This series of experiments uses a novel computer-based adventure-game methodology to investigate the effects of the length of the interruption, the similarity of the interruption to the main task, and the complexity of processing demanded by the interruption. It is concluded that subjects make use of some form of non-articulatory memory which is not affected by the length of the interruption. It is affected by processing similar material however, and by a complex mentalarithmetic task which makes large demands on working memory.
- Ashcraft, M. H., Battaglia, J. (1978) Cognitive arithmetic: Evidence for retrieval and decision processes in mental addition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory 4: pp. 527-538
- Baddeley, A. (1986) Working memory. Oxford University Press, Oxford
- Battig, W. F., & Montague, W. (1969). Category norms for verbal items in 56 categories: A replication and extension of the Connecticut Category Norms. Journal of Experimental Psychology Monographs, 80, Number 3.
- Broadbent, D. E. (1984) The maltese cross: A new simplistic model for memory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7: pp. 55-94
- Brown, J. (1958) Some tests of the decay theory of immediate memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 10: pp. 12-21
- Fitts, P. M., Jones, R. E. (1947) Analysis of factors contributing to 460 “pilot-error” experiences in operating aircraft controls. Aero Medical Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio
- Field, G. E. (1987) Experimentus Interruptus. SIGCHI Bulletin 19: pp. 42-46
- Gillie, T., & Broadbent, D. E. (Submitted). Irrelevant speech, articulatory suppression, and the Stroop effect.
- Groen, G. J., Parkman, J. M. (1972) A chronometric analysis of simple addition. Psychological Review 79: pp. 329-343
- Kreifeldt, J. G., & McCarthy, M. E. (1981). Interruption as a test of the user-computer interface. In: Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference on Manual Control (pp. 655–667). JPL Publication 81-95, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
- Leplat, J. (1978) Factors determining work-load. Ergonomics 21: pp. 143-149
- Lewis, M. W., Anderson, J. R. (1985) Discrimination of operator schemata in problem solving: Learning from examples. Cognitive Psychology 17: pp. 26-65
- McCloskey, M., Caramazza, A., Basili, A. (1985) Cognitive mechanisms in number processing and calculation: Evidence from dyscalculia. Brain and Cognition 4: pp. 171-196
- McGeoch, J. A., MacDonald, W. T. (1931) Meaningful relation and retroactive inhibition. American Journal of Psychology 43: pp. 579-588
- Miller, G. A., Galanter, E., Pribram, K. H. (1960) Plans and the structure of behavior. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, London
- Ovsiankina, M. (1928) Die Wiederaufnahme unterbrochener Handlungen. Psychologische Forschung 11: pp. 302-379
- Posner, M. I., Konick, A. F. (1966) On the role of interference in short-term retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology 72: pp. 221-231
- Tulving, E., Pearlstone, Z. (1966) Availability versus accessibility of information in memory for words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 5: pp. 381-391
- Bergen, A. (1968) Task interruption. North-Holland, Amsterdam
- Winkelman, J. H., Schmidt, J. (1974) Associative confusions in mental arithmetic. Journal of Experimental Psychology 102: pp. 734-736
- Yntema, D. B., Mueser, G. E. (1962) Keeping track of variables that have few or many states. Journal of Experimental Psychology 63: pp. 391-395
- Zeigarnik, B. (1927) Das Behalten erledigter und unerledigter Handlungen. Psychologische Forschung 9: pp. 1-85
- What makes interruptions disruptive? A study of length, similarity, and complexity
Volume 50, Issue 4 , pp 243-250
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Additional Links