Do Interruptions Affect Quality of Work? (study)

Dr. Cyrus K. Foroughi (U.S. Naval Research Lab) is, amongst other things, an expert on interruptions. In 2014, working with Nicole E. Werner, Erik T. Nelson and Deborah A. Boehm-Davis he was able to experimentally demonstrate that interruptions can affect the quality of work – in a negative way. Thus it’s suggested that the answer to the question posed in the title above can be, broadly speaking, summarised as ‘Yes’.

In the course of attempting to write an essay, 54 students from George Mason University were either interrupted (three times), or not interrupted. Those who were interrupted fared, overall, less well than those who weren’t.

“Our data suggest that interruptions lead to a reduction in quality for a complex, creative writing task. Quality scores for the essays were lower in both interrupted conditions. In addition, word count was reduced when the execution phase was interrupted.”

See: Do Interruptions Affect Quality of Work? in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society November 2014 vol. 56 no. 7 1262-1271.

BONUS : See the work of The Information Overload Research Group (IORG) whom, along with The Spaghetti Project , are hosting Overloaded 2017 in New York, October this year.

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