Beware of Three-Second Distractions

Here’s a surprising fact (or maybe not): even a 3-second distraction can screw you up, especially at work:

Researchers asked 300 Michigan State University undergrads to complete a tedious computer exercise in which subjects needed to remember exactly where they were in a precise sequence of tasks. The researchers evilly programmed interruptions to occur after about every sixth step, in the form of a pop-up box that required the volunteers to type in a CAPTCHA-esque code before they could get back to work.

In one experiment, the code was four characters long, and the interruption lasted about 4.4 seconds; in a second experiment, the code and disruption were about half as long, lasting 2.8 seconds on average. They found that after the 4.4-second interruption, people more than tripled the errors they made when they returned to the task, and after the 2.8 distraction, they more than doubled their errors.

Good reminder for a Monday! Read the whole thing here.


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