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An app to regulate digital distractions

30 June 2016

In this information age it is not easy to concentrate on your work. Chats, e-mails, social media… they all distract you from your work. And even if you turn off all notifications, a slow loading webpage can have you reaching for your smartphone. From her PhD research on distractions, Ioanna Katidioti concluded that they activate cognitive processes that are not then in use, and that an app that regulates these distractions might help.

Ioanna Katidioti began by studying why people allow themselves to be distracted. ‘We often interrupt our own work to do something else, like watch a cat video’, she says. In her first experiment, the participants were asked to search for product information on the web, while chat messages popped up to distract them. In general, the participants finished the task before responding to the messages. ‘This is a rational choice’, says Katidioti.

But if, in the same experiment, the web browser was very slow, the participants responded sooner to the chat messages. ‘And they then forgot important information and took longer to finish the task. They no longer behaved rationally.’ more.

Last modified:13 June 2019 1.40 p.m.

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