Don’t Disturb Me! Understanding the Impact of Interruptions on Knowledge Work: an Exploratory Neuroimaging Study

  • Pankush Kalgotra
  • Ramesh Sharda
  • Roger McHaney


As we become more and more connected, the number of technology interruptions are increasing as well. The mechanisms by which a technology interruption takes attention away and ongoing task performance decreases need more investigation. Through neuroimaging, this paper explores how technologies can interrupt concentration, focus and attention of knowledge workers. Subjects were given reading tasks and subjected to a series of randomly timed audio interruptions. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) measurement device, we recorded their brain waves. Consistent with the literature, we found interruptions significantly increased task completion time and decreased task performance. Neuroimaging analysis showed activity in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and insular cortex of the participants due to interruptions. The paper also investigates differences due to gender and age. The results suggest application developers should consider underlying mechanisms of processing interruptions.


Interruption NeuroIS Neuroimaging Electroencephalogram (EEG) Knowledge work 



We thank the associate editor and two anonymous reviewers for their useful feedback that improved this paper. Many thanks to Dr. James E. Cane for sharing the readings/paragraphs adopted in our experiment. We also thank Vijay Singh and Nandan Moza for their assistance during the experiment.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at 49th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), 2016 (Kalgotra et al. 2016).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of ManagementClark UniversityWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Spears School of BusinessOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  3. 3.Department of ManagementKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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