Measuring the effects of interruptions on task performance in the user interface

Brian P. Bailey, Joseph A. Konstan, John V. Carlis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As users continue offloading more control and responsibility to the computer, coordinating the asynchronous interactions between the user and computer is becoming increasingly important. Without proper coordination, an application attempting to gain the user's attention risks interrupting the user in the midst of performing another task. To justify why an application should avoid interrupting the user whenever possible, we designed an experiment measuring the disruptive effect of an interruption on a user's task performance. The experiment utilized six web-based task categories and two categories of interruption tasks. The results of the experiment demonstrate that (i) a user performs slower on an interrupted task than a non-interrupted task, (ii) the disruptive effect of an interruption differs as a function of task category, and (iii) different interruption tasks cause similar disruptive effects on task performance. These results empirically validate the need to better coordinate user interactions among applications that are competing for the user's attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-762
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Hardware and Architecture


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