Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Mark W. Scerbo

Committee Member

Yusuke Yamani

Committee Member

Deborah Boehm-Davis


The timing of an interruption can be disruptive to task performance; however, the effect of participant control over when interruptions occur is not well understood. Further, it is unclear how participants’ experience with the primary task influences when they decide to address interruptions. Utilizing a 2 (task experience, between subjects) X 3 (interruption source, within subjects) mixed design, undergraduate students who had different amounts of experience with a computer-based medication dosage calculation task completed three trials of the task: once with the experimenter scheduling interruptions to occur at coarse breakpoints within the task, once with the participants deciding when to address the interruptions, and once without interruptions. The primary dependent measures included resumption lag, mental workload, and the interruption points selected by participants. According to the memory for goals (MFG) model and event segmentation theory (EST), it was hypothesized that task experience and interruption source would interact such that the benefit of high task experience on performance would be more pronounced in the participant-determined condition than in the experimenter-determined condition. Supplementary qualitative data were also gathered to explore participants’ preferences for interruption schedules. Although there was no significant interaction between interruption source and task experience, participants took longer to resume the primary task and reported higher mental workload when they had control over when the interruptions occurred rather than the experimenter. Additionally, participants with greater task experience resumed the primary task faster than participants with less task experience. These findings are consistent with the MFG model and EST and underscore the benefits of scheduling interruptions to occur at coarse breakpoints during a task and the role that task experience may play in reducing the disruptive effects of interruptions.


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