Daily Management Review

Even Knowledge of Text Messages Arrival Can Cause Distraction, Says a Research


Even Knowledge of Text Messages Arrival Can Cause Distraction, Says a Research
It is not only the untimely phone call that tends to distract attention of people at work, the text messages – even the realization that one has received a text message, is enough to significantly affect one’s concentration at the work at hand and impinge performance.

A recent research conducted by the Florida State University on this aspect of modern life found out that participants who received text notifications made three times as many errors on a task as those who received none.

The research concluded that ignoring the phone when a message arrives is easier said than done. People do not realize that ignoring the call or the text is as distracting as reading the text. Ainsley Mitchum, one of the research authors who now works on traffic safety research for the state of California says that at the beginning of the research they were not sure about being able to measure the distraction effect of phone texts at work since the research work simply concerned with participants picking up the phone and looking at it. Mitchum claims that initially it was difficult to ascertain how this can be translated into measurable quantities.  

The idea of the research seemingly occurred to Mitchum and one of his co-authors, cognitive psychology graduation student Cary Stothart, from personal experiences. The duo had noted that while they were attempting to assimilate a demanding academic title or trying to do some programming work, their concentrations would be shattered even if they became aware of the arrival of a notification.  

Such a reaction – a break in concentration, is only satisfied after knowing what had arrived in the phone and even after reading the notification, one would often spend time in thinking  about the what had arrived rather than on the work they were doing.

A Sustained Attention to Response Task, or SART formed the basis of the experiment on a subject that unknowingly affects almost everyone using a phone while at work. The participants were asked to look at a screen flash a random number and they had to press the space bar when every time they saw a number unless the number was “3”. Then they were supposed to do nothing.

After finding out the baseline performance indicators for every participant, the participants were randomly divided into three groups and asked to perform the task again. While one group received phone calls on their cell phones, the second group received texts and the third group received nothing.

Results of the second round of tests found that each one of the participants made more mistakes.

However the students who received text notifications were three times as likely to make an error as the group who got no phone calls or texts.

The group that received phone calls made four times the mistake as the control group.

This experiment is clearly important for people driving vehicles. However the researchers point out that the results were equally important for those who were trying to concentrate on some work task or performing any other activity that required concentration.

Therefore the researchers suggest that it is not only important for people to switch the phone on vibration mode while they are trying to concentrate on some work but to keep it out of sight all together.

“Even the flash of an incoming message can cause a lapse in concentration and eventually reduce performance,” says Mitchum.

(source: www.forbes.com)