Altmann and David Hambrick confirm that mental interruptions can impede performance. They report that “As steps of a procedure are performed more quickly, memory for past performance . . . become less accurate, increasing the rate of skipped or repeated steps after an interruption. We found this effect, with practice generally improving speed and accuracy, but impairing accuracy after interruptions. . . . In practical terms, the results suggest that practice can be a risk factor for procedural errors in task environments with a high incidence of task interruption.” These findings have implications for workplace and healthcare design, for example.
Erik Altmann and David Hambrick. “Practice Increases Procedural Errors After Task Interruption.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, in press.