Skip to main content

Reminders, Alerts and Pop-ups: The Cost of Computer-Initiated Interruptions

  • Conference paper
Human-Computer Interaction. Interaction Design and Usability (HCI 2007)

Part of the book series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science ((LNPSE,volume 4550))

Included in the following conference series:


Responding to computer-initiated notifications requires a shift in attention that disrupts the flow of work. The degree of cost associated with resuming the original task following interruption may be dependent upon such factors as the transition between tasks (was the worker able to consolidate his/her place in the main task before engaging in the interruption?) as well as the nature of the interrupting task itself (e.g., length or complexity). The current paper reviews a number of studies from our laboratory that investigate the effects of brief interruptions to the execution phase of computer-based 5-disk Tower of London problems. The results are interpreted within the theoretical framework of the goal-activation model [1] and suggestions are made for practical applications that may help to minimize the disruption caused.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Altmann, E.M., Trafton, G.J.: Memory for goals: An activation-based model. Cognitive Science 26, 39–83 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. DeMarco, T., Lister, T.: Peopleware: Productive projects and teams, 2nd edn. Dorset House, New York (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Storch, N.A.: Does the user interface make interruptions disruptive? A study of interface style and form of interruption (Report UCRL-JC-108993). Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Springfield (1992)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Anderson, J.R: Rules of the mind. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ (1993)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ward, G., Allport, A.: Planning and problem-solving using the five-disc Tower of London task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 50A, 49–78 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Lahlou, S., Kirsh, D., Rebotier, T., Reeves, C., Remy, M.: Interruptions in the workplace (2000) Available:

  7. Gillie, T., Broadbent, D.: What makes interruptions disruptive? A study of length, similarity, and complexity. Psychological Research 50, 243–250 (1989)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Hodgetts, H.M., Jones, D.M.: Interruption of the Tower of London task: Support for a goal activation approach. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 135, 103–115 (2006a)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hodgetts, H.M., Jones, D.M.: Resuming an interrupted task: Activation and decay in goal memory. In: Sun, R., Miyake, N. (eds.) Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2006), p. 2506. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ (2006b)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Baddeley, A.D.: A three-minute reasoning test based on grammatical transformation. Psychonomic Science 10, 341–342 (1968)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hodgetts, H.M., Jones, D.M.: Interrupting problem solving: Effects of interruption position and complexity. In: Katsikitis, M (ed.) Past Reflections, Future Directions: Proceedings of the 40th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, Melbourne, Australia pp. 128–132 (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Trafton, J.G., Altmann, E.M., Brock, D.P., Mintz, F.E.: Preparing to resume an interrupted task: Effects of prospective goal encoding and retrospective rehearsal. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 58, 583–603 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hodgetts, H.M., Jones, D.M.: Contextual cues aid recovery from interruption: The role of associative activation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition 32, 1120–1132 (2006c)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hodgetts, H.M., Jones, D.M.: Interruptions in the Tower of London task: Can preparation minimize disruption? In: Proceedings of the 47th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, pp. 1000–1004. HFES, Santa Monica CA (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Ware, C., Bonner, J., Knight, W., Cater, R.: Moving icons as a human interrupt. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction 4, 341–348 (1992)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Julie A. Jacko

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2007 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this paper

Cite this paper

Hodgetts, H.M., Jones, D.M. (2007). Reminders, Alerts and Pop-ups: The Cost of Computer-Initiated Interruptions. In: Jacko, J.A. (eds) Human-Computer Interaction. Interaction Design and Usability. HCI 2007. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 4550. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-540-73104-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-540-73105-4

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics