Multitasking and prospective memory: Resistance to the effect of interruptions in a computer-based student study setting
Jining Zhang 2013 Dissertation.pdf (2.143Mb)
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The present experiment examined the effect of frequent, complex and dissimilar interruptions on multitasking and prospective memory (PM) performance in a computer-based student study setting. Participants were either uninterrupted or unexpectedly interrupted three times while performing four study-related tasks, in addition to an event-based PM task. Our results show that PM, multitasking and multitasking-related behaviours, such as task-switching, were unaffected by interruptions. However, we discovered a trend indicating that the time spent on each individual task varied depending on whether or not participants were interrupted. This suggests that the interruptions caused participants to focus on different tasks, engaging in a different strategy to optimise performance and perform on par with uninterrupted participants. Surprisingly, we also found a trend indicating that uninterrupted participants were more likely to forget components of the PM task compared to interrupted participants. Thus, it appears that interruptions also had a positive effect, allowing more opportunities for participants to step back from immediate multitasking goals and rehearse previous PM intentions. Taken together, our findings show that students are generally good at dealing with short interruptions, and that interruptions can even have a beneficial effect in demanding multitasking situations.