Driver Performance with In-Vehicle Information Systems

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McFarlane D. C. and Latorella K. A. (2002) The scope and importance of human interruption in human-computer interaction design, Human-Computer Interaction, 17 (1), 1-61. [PDF 1.50MB]


This paper reiterates the theoretical frameworks presented in McFarlane (1997) and Latorella (1996, 1998), discusses four possible methods of managing interruptions in HCI, and provides specific suggestions for explicit support of users before, during, and after interruptions. Latorella's Interruption Management Stage Model (IMSM) provides a high-level view of the steps involved in processing an interruption. McFarlane's Definition and Taxonomy offer a broad view of the aspects of interruption context that are relevant for design.


This paper gives an excellent summary of the current state of knowledge, with an emphasis on implications for design. I highly recommend reading the full text of sections 4, 6, and 7. The first presents the IMSM. Several key variables and performance measures are described -- this work can be an important guide for future investigations. The latter sections include a brief summary of the critical areas needing HCI support and a set of recommendations for use in various contexts.

Section 5 provides some very useful information, but most of the section is only indirectly relevant to our work. Sections 5.1 and 5.2 on Immediate and Negotiated Interruption are worth skimming for general context. Several references should be explored in more depth: Osgood (1988) found a difference in performance on an interruption task based on the spatial presentation of the interruption. Noy (1989) showed negative effects on driving in a simulator when auxiliary displays for a navigation task were provided. Müller and Rabbitt (1989) study visual onsets as part of interruptions. Clark (1996) explores four human responses to interruption in human-human communication. These responses are translated into UI design:

The interface could afford the user four options of when or whether to handle the interruption: (a) handle it immediately (take-up with full compliance), (b) acknowledge it and agree to handle it later (take-up with alteration), (c) explicitly refuse to handle it (decline), or (d) implicitly refuse to handle it by ignoring it (withdraw).
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