Managing Smartphone Interruptions
If you’re sick of annoying smartphone interruptions, experts have developed a model that could lead to a better way to manage the flood of interference.
But smartphone manufacturers need to get on board.
The model developed by Rutgers researchers incorporates your personality traits in figuring out how you can handle interruptions and notifications without getting bent out of shape.
“Ideally, a smartphone notification management system should be like an excellent human secretary who knows when you want to be interrupted or left alone,” said Janne Lindqvist, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Rutgers’ School of Engineering. “We know that people struggle with time management all the time, so a smartphone, instead of being a nuisance, could actually help with things.”
Currently, smartphone users can limit interruptions by turning off their ringers, but no system figures out when you want to receive notifications. “Preferably, your smartphone would recognize your patterns of use and behavior and schedule notifications to minimize interruptions,” said Lindqvist, who leads a research group focusing on human-computer interaction and security engineering.
Studies have shown that inappropriate or untimely smartphone interruptions annoy users, decrease productivity and affect emotions, he said. So it’s important to choose the right time to interrupt people.
Lindqvist began thinking about how to reduce smartphone distractions several years ago, so he and his doctoral students, Fengpeng Yuan and Xianyi Gao, conducted a peer-reviewed study: “How Busy Are You? Predicting the Interruptibility Intensity of Mobile Users.” The pioneering study will be formally published in May at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Denver, Colorado. It’s the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.
For their study, the researchers developed and evaluated a two-stage model to predict the degree to which people are interruptible by smartphones. The first stage is aimed at predicting whether a user is available at all or unavailable. The second stage gauges whether people are not interruptible, highly not interruptible, highly interruptible, interruptible or neutral toward interruptions, according to Lindqvist.
They collected more than 5,000 smartphone records from 22 participants at Rutgers University over four weeks, and they were able to predict how busy people were. That’s important because people can respond to different kinds of interruptions based on their level of busyness.
In a first, the researchers used major personality traits to help predict how interruptible people were. Study participants took a standard test to see how their personalities aligned with the “Big Five” personality traits in psychological theory – extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness.