Attention and Intention Goals Can Mediate Disruption in Human-Computer Interaction

  • Ernesto Arroyo
  • Ted Selker
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6947)


Multitasking environments cause people to be interrupted constantly, often interfering with their ongoing tasks, activities and goals. This paper focuses on the disruption caused by interruptions and presents a disruption mediating approach for balancing the negative effects of interruptions with respect to the benefits of interruptions relevant to the user goals. Our work shows how Disruption Manager utilizing context and relationships to user goals and tasks can assess when and how to present interruptions in order to reduce their disruptiveness.

The Disruption Management Framework was created to take into consideration motivations that influence people’s interruption decision process. The framework predicts the effects from interruptions using a three-layer software architecture: a knowledge layer including information about topics related to the ongoing activity, an intermediate layer including summarized information about the user tasks and their stages, and a low level layer including implicit low granularity information, such as mouse movement, context switching and windowing activity to support fail-safe disruption management when no other contextual information is available. The manager supports implicit monitoring of ongoing behaviors and categorizing possible disruptive outcome given the user and system state. The manager monitors actions and uses common sense reasoning in its model to compare communication stream topics with topics files that are active on the desktop.

Experiments demonstrate that disruption manager significantly reduces the impact of interruptions and improve people’s performance in a multi-application desktop scenario with email and instant messaging. In a complex order taking activity, disruption manager yielded a 26% performance increase for tasks prioritized as being important and a 32.5% increase for urgent tasks. The evaluation shows that the modulated interruptions did not distract or troubled users. Further, subjects using the Disruption Manager were 5 times more likely to respond effectively to instant messages.


Disruption Interuption Adaptive Interface Software Managers Human Computer Interaction 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernesto Arroyo
    • 1
  • Ted Selker
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ICTUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Carnegie Mellon Silicon ValleyMoffettUSA

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