Pardon the interruption: Here's how your smartphone could be less of a noodge

Rutgers researchers factor smartphone users' personalities into their interruptibility

Pardon the interruption: Here's how your smartphone could be less of a noodge
Fengpeng Yuan/Rutgers University
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Rutgers University researchers have examined the tolerance levels of different personality types for being interrupted by smartphone notifications in an effort that could help phone makers and app developers build offerings that are more useful and less annoying.

The research, outlined in a paper titled "How Busy Are You? Predicting the Interruptibility Intensity of Mobile Users," will be presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Denver this May.

In fact, this research will have plenty of company in terms of new insights into how technology intrudes on people's lives. Other papers being presented include: "'If a person is emailing you, it just doesn't make sense': Exploring Changing Consumer Behaviors in Email" and "Reducing Interruptions at Work: A Large-Scale Field Study of FlowLight."

MORE: 7 really cool network & IT research projects

The general idea is that smartphone notifications could be managed better if your phone/apps have a sense of your personality type and your work patterns. As it is now, users have little granular control over notifications, either turning off notifications entirely while they are busy, or letting the floodgates open.

“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, in a statement. “We know that people struggle with time management all the time, so a smartphone, instead of being a nuisance, could actually help with things.”

Lindqvist, and doctoral students Fengpeng Yuan and Xianyi Gao, conducted a peer-reviewed study to predict how tolerant people were to being interrupted by their smartphones. That tolerance can be affected greatly by how busy people actually are when being buzzed with the latest text message or app update, as well as where they fall on the scale of personality traits such as extroversion and neuroticism.

Using results from studies like this, smartphone and app makers could enable notification management systems to become more aware of their users and predict how to best handle bugging them.

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