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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Bibliotheks- und Informations­wissen­schaft

Elke Greifeneder (2016)

The effects of distraction on task completion scores in a natural environment test setting

In: Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 62(12):2858–2870 .

The effects of distraction on completion scores generate a gap that is generally not taken into account in information behavior studies. This research investigated what happens if researchers de facto allow distractions to occur in a test situation. It examined the type and magnitude of occurred distractions, the effects distractions have on completion scores, and whether different distractions affect different test activities differently. In the research design, participants were randomly assigned to either a controlled environment or their natural environment. The results showed that whereas participants in the natural environment needed more time to complete the post task questionnaire than their laboratory counterparts, they spent a similar amount of time on the tasks. Participants were capable of, and indeed willing to, limit the less-urgent distractions in the interests of getting the tasks done. If they were interrupted by a human contact, however, the completion time for tasks increased significantly. Previous studies showed that distractions change information behavior. Yet, the present results provide evidence that these changes do not always occur, and thus there needs to be a better demarcation of the limits within which distraction can be expected to change how people interact with information.