We all know how frustrating it is to be interrupted, but how much does it really impact us? A study by the Australian military (Loft, Shayne, Andreas Sadler, Janelle Braithwaite, and Samuel Huf, “The Chronic Detrimental Impact of Interruptions in a Simulated Submarine Track Management Task” , Human Factors 57.8 (2015): 1417-1426) shows that in a command-control task (what console operators do), interruptions can degrade subsequent situation awareness and task performance for up to 40 seconds.
Two interesting implications from the study – First, the study validates Beville’s use of meantime between tasks (MTBT) as a key metric of operator workload. Console operators will have less time on task because they have so many interruptions requiring re-acclimation. Second, it raises the question of how differing displays would impact the magnitude of the degradation. The Center for Operator Performance has developed guidelines for Control Operator Situation Awareness graphics. Would use of such graphics reduce the impact of interruptions?
Copyright 2016 Beville Engineering, Inc.
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This year's Fall meeting for the Center for Operator Performance will be October 7-10 in Houston, TX. For more information, please contact Lisa Via. Guests are always welcome!
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David Strobhar's book, "Human Factors in Process Plant Operation," is now available in both hardcover and Kindle e-book.
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