Notification, Disruption, and Memory: Effects of Messaging Interruptions on Memory and Performance

We describe a study on the influence of instant messaging (IM) on ongoing computing tasks. The study both replicates and extends earlier work on the cost of sending notifications at different times and the sensitivity of different tasks to interruption. We investigate alternative hypotheses about the nature of disruption for a list evaluation task, an activity identified as being particularly costly to interrupt. Our findings once again show the generally disruptive effects of IM, especially during fast, stimulus-driven search tasks. In addition, we show that interruptions coming early during a search task are more likely to result in the user forgetting the primary task goal than interruptions that arrive later on. These findings have implications for the design of user interfaces and notification policies that minimize the disruptiveness of notifications.