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PhD Ceremony I. (Ioanna) Katidioti: Understanding and managing interruptions, How to avoid watching cat videos all day long

24 June 2016

Date: 24-06-2016
Time: 12:45
Location: Academiegebouw RUG
PhD Ceremony: Mw. I. Katidioti
Promotor: prof. dr. N.A. (Niels) Taatgen
Faculty: Mathematics and Natural Sciences

There are constant interruptions that keep interfering with our workday and slow us down. Half of these interruptions are our own fault: emails, social media, coffee breaks… In my thesis, I tried to understand and manage interruptions, with the hope of uncovering information that could reduce their disruptive effect.
First, I found that when the cognitive resources (such as vision, language processing, hearing etc.) for an interruption are free, people will be distracted or self-interrupt. While performing a task, people faced a slow browser and started chatting to stay occupied. However, they ended up being slower in the main task. In another study, the fewer visual resources a task required, the more people got distracted by a cat video playing in the background. Surprisingly, the difficulty level of the task did not affect how distracted they were, the availability of visual resources was the disruptive factor.
Second, I discovered that being externally interrupted (e.g. by an app that decides when you will check your emails) is less disruptive than self-interrupting. The decision to self-interrupt takes time, which was also reflected in the size of our pupil, a well-known measure of cognitive activity. Finally, I constructed an interruption management system that interrupted people on optimal moments, which were decided by the changes in their pupil dilation.


Last modified:31 May 2018 4.35 p.m.

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