Stress response caused by system response time when searching for information on the Internet

Hum Factors. 2003;45(4):615-21. doi: 10.1518/hfes.45.4.615.27084.


System response time (SRT) is suspected to be a stress-inducing factor when searching for information during human-computer interactions. In this study 26 volunteers, grouped into skilled and unskilled Internet users, completed three tasks of searching for information on the Internet, whereupon they rated their strain. Heart rate, nonspecific skin conductance responses, and skin conductance level after SRTs lasting 2, 10, and 22 s were analyzed. Results showed physiological stress responses of higher heart rates and enhanced electrodermal activity related to SRT duration, independent of expertise. For persons experiencing high strain, a higher overall heart rate and a heart rate of 114 beats per minute were observed for the 22-s condition. As no significant effect of expertise on stress response was found, this indicates that no long-term habituation took place. To avoid stress, short SRTs and/or effective coping mechanisms are recommended. The potential application of this research is the suggestion of using a fast Internet connection to reduce the stress response.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude to Computers*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors
  • User-Computer Interface*