Dario D. Salvucci and Peter Bogunovich (2010) Multitasking and Monotasking: The Effects of Mental Workload on Deferred Task Interruptions, CHI 2010: Multitasking
Recent research has found that forced interruptions at points of higher mental workload are more disruptive than at points of lower workload. This paper investigates a complementary idea: when users experience deferrable interruptions at points of higher workload, they may tend to defer processing of the interruption until times of lower workload. In an experiment, users performed a mail-browser primary task while being occasionally interrupted by a secondary chat task, evenly distributed between points of higher and lower workload. Analysis showed that 94% of the time, users switched to the interrupting task during periods of lower workload, versus only 6% during periods of higher workload. The results suggest that when interruptions can be deferred, users have a strong tendency to “monotask” until primary-task mental workload has been minimized.
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Laura Dabbish, Gloria Mark, Victor Gonzalez (2011) Why Do I Keep Interrupting Myself?: Environment, Habit and Self-Interruption, Association for Computing Machinery — May 7, 2011
Self-interruptions account for a significant portion of task switching in information-centric work contexts. However, most of the research to date has focused on understanding, analyzing and designing for external interruptions. The causes of self-interruptions are not well understood. In this paper we present an analysis of 889 hours of observed task switching behavior from 36 individuals across three high technology information work organizations. Our analysis suggests that self-interruption is a function of organizational environment and individual differences, but also external interruptions experienced. We find that people in open office environments interrupt themselves at a higher rate. We also find that people are significantly more likely to interrupt themselves to return to solitary work associated with central working spheres, suggesting that self interruption occurs largely as a function of prospective memory events. The research presented contributes substantially to our understanding of attention and multitasking in context.
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