150 Interruptions!

Based on research by Foroughi, Cyrus, Werner, N., Nelson, E., and Boehm-Davis, D. (2014), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Do you have a lot of interruptions when working? How do these distractions impact your work products?

Human Factors psychology researchers at George Mason University wanted to determine if interruptions affect the quality of work performed. They compared 54 students writing essays under three different conditions. In all situations, students outlined the essay using pen and paper, and then wrote the essay on a computer.  During one condition, participants were interrupted while outlining, during another condition they were interrupted while they were writing, and for a third condition, no interruptions occurred. Interruption consisted of disrupting the participants by having them answer unrelated questions using a pen and paper.

Results revealed that the quality of work significantly diminished when the participants were interrupted compared to when they were not. In addition, participants wrote significantly fewer words when they were interrupted during writing the essay, but not during the outlining process of the essay. This study suggests that interrupting a task can negatively impact both the quantity and quality of the work.

When you need to get work done and want to do it well, find a quiet room away from possible interruptions!


Foroughi, C. K., Werner, N. E., Nelson, E. T., & Boehm-Davis, D. A. (2014). Do interruptions affect quality of work?. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 56(7), 1262-1271.

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