Remind Me: Minimizing Negative Effects of Multitasking

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Multitasking is common in our everyday life. Often people multitask either consciously or otherwise, whether talking on the phone while driving or visiting social networking sites while completing a work assignment. Students are commonly engaged in multiple tasks while completing homework. Research shows that multitasking negatively impacts one’s performance. System designers can examine various ways to minimize negative effects of multitasking. Systems can be designed to automatically set up reminder alerts reminding users to attend their primary task. In order to examine whether reminders would improve user performance when multitasking, we set up a web-based laboratory experiment with a multi-tabbed user interface. The first tab contained slides with study material for a world history quiz. The remaining tabs each contained different games. Participants had 20-minutes to study and were able to switch tasks whenever they desired. Participants were randomized into one of two conditions: reminders or no-reminders. Participants in the reminder condition received reminder alerts every one minute off-task reminding them of the primary task. As long as the user was on the slides tab, no reminders appeared. Participants in the control condition did not receive any reminders. Data for 66 participants was analyzed. The results of the study suggest that receiving reminders about a task when multitasking may be helpful for females. However, for males, these reminder alerts were not helpful, and in fact appear to increase the negative effects of multitasking by causing more switches and possibly lower performance.


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Publication Title

6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2015) and the Affiliated Conferences, AHFE 2015