Josh-Daniel S. Davis (joshdavis) wrote,
Josh-Daniel S. Davis

Studies in computer response time indicate that small increases in the effort required to perform a task can have large effects on whether a person will bother acting at all. For example, Robert Miller argues that for many tasks, more than two seconds of response delay is unacceptable and will result in fewer uses of a particular tool, even at the cost of decreased accuracy.18 He also argues that there is not a linear decrease in efficiency as response delay increases; there are response delay thresholds beyond which sudden drops in mental efficiency will occur. Miller is primarily discussing system response delays, but the same short-term memory limitations he discusses also apply to performing subtasks that distract from a primary task. For example, when performing a search for information about a digression, a person needs to use short-term memory to keep his or her place in the larger framework of the task. The amount of short-term memory required, and thus the amount of effort required in the task, will depend on a number of factors including the complexity of the digression, the amount of time required to complete the task, and the similarity of the digression to the primary task.

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