Reducing the disruptive effects of interruption: a cognitive framework for analysing the costs and benefits of intervention strategies

Accid Anal Prev. 2009 Sep;41(5):1124-9. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2009.06.029. Epub 2009 Jul 18.


Interruptions are ubiquitous, and they can lead to disastrous consequences. The goal of this paper is to describe remedies that have been proposed to reduce the disruption caused by interruptions based on an understanding of how principles of human cognitive processing bear on the sequence of events that take place during an interruption. We show that interruptions tap disparate cognitive operations, from attention to decision making to memory. We illustrate how these cognitive processes can lead to interruption-induced errors, and how they can help in understanding potential problems with remedies that have been proposed to ameliorate those effects. We present a framework in which the load imposed by the task and the cost of an error suggests the types of solutions that should be considered for a given domain. We then discuss the implications of this approach for understanding and reducing the negative effect of interruptions in transportation domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Awareness
  • Cognition*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • United States