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Task, interrupted: understanding the effect of time costs on task interruptions during data entry

Borghouts, Judith Willemijn; (2019) Task, interrupted: understanding the effect of time costs on task interruptions during data entry. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Computer-based work often involves looking up information from different sources. Though these interruptions are required to progress with work, switching away from a task can be disruptive: it slows people down, increases errors and it is challenging to remain focused on work. This thesis investigates how interruption management tools can better support people in managing these types of work-required interruptions in the context of data entry work. The first part of the thesis reports two qualitative studies looking at understanding data entry in an office setting. They demonstrate that physical interruptions are postponed until a convenient moment in the task if they are expected to take time, but digital interruptions are addressed immediately as these are presumed to be quick to deal with. The second part of the thesis reports three controlled experiments to test the hypothesis that people manage interruptions by avoiding time costs. Results show that if people are able to learn the expected time costs of digital interruptions, they avoid interruptions with a high time cost. They reduce the number of these interruptions and postpone them until later in the task, and address interruptions with low time costs first. The third part of the thesis reports an online experiment and a field study that evaluate a design intervention showing people the duration of their interruptions. These studies demonstrate that making people aware of the time costs of digital interruptions makes people reflect on what they were doing during an interruption, reduces the duration of interruptions, and makes people faster and more accurate in completing data entry tasks. Taken together, this thesis demonstrates that people manage interruptions based on expected time costs, and that giving people feedback on the time they spend on interruptions can help them manage their interruptions better. It makes a theoretical contribution by showing how people adapt to small changes in time costs by reducing the number and duration of interruptions, and postponing them until later in a task. It makes a practical contribution by showing that giving people feedback on time costs can help them to reduce the duration of interruptions, and improve their focus on the task at hand.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Task, interrupted: understanding the effect of time costs on task interruptions during data entry
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10068681
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