Using informative peripheral visual and tactile cues to support task and interruption management. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: This study examined the effectiveness of using informative peripheral visual and tactile cues to support task switching and interruption management. BACKGROUND: Effective support for the allocation of limited attentional resources is needed for operators who must cope with numerous competing task demands and frequent interruptions in data-rich, event-driven domains. One prerequisite for meeting this need is to provide information that allows them to make informed decisions about, and before, (re)orienting their attentional focus. METHOD: Thirty participants performed a continuous visual task. Occasionally, they were presented with a peripheral visual or tactile cue that indicated the need to attend to a separate visual task. The location, frequency, and duration parameters of these cues represented the domain, importance, and expected completion time, respectively, of the interrupting task. RESULTS: The findings show that the informative cues were detected and interpreted reliably. Information about the importance (rather than duration) of the task was used by participants to decide whether to switch attention to the interruption, indicating adherence to experimenter instructions. Erroneous task-switching behavior (nonadherence to experimenter instructions) was mostly caused by misinterpretation of cues. CONCLUSION: The effectiveness of informative peripheral visual and tactile cues for supporting interruption management was validated in this study. However, the specific implementation of these cues requires further work and needs to be tailored to specific domain requirements. APPLICATION: The findings from this research can inform the design of more effective notification systems for a variety of complex event-driven domains, such as aviation, medicine, or process control.

published proceedings

  • Hum Factors

author list (cited authors)

  • Hameed, S., Ferris, T., Jayaraman, S., & Sarter, N.

citation count

  • 47

complete list of authors

  • Hameed, Shameem||Ferris, Thomas||Jayaraman, Swapnaa||Sarter, Nadine

publication date

  • April 2009