Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Moss, Jarrod

Committee Member

Eakin, Deborah K.

Committee Member

Bradshaw, Gary L.

Committee Member

Thompson, James R.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Cognitive Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Interruption interference refers to significant decreases in performance that occur following task interruption. Evidence has suggested that practicing recovering from interruptions can reduce interruption interference as measured by the time required for resuming the interrupted task. Conflicting evidence, however, has indicated that interruption practice might only improve resumption for the practiced primary and interrupting task-pair. The studies within this dissertation utilize a transfer paradigm to resolve this conflict and determine whether or not interruption resumption practice in one task-pair context can benefit interruption resumption in a novel task-pair context. A new theory, Interruption Recovery Goal, defines the mechanisms of interruption handling skill acquisition and transfer as production consolidation that facilitates the storage and maintenance, via rehearsal, of the pre-interruption task state, as well as any planned action sequences, for retrieval after the interruption. The first two reported studies provided evidence that interruption handling skill for one task-pair context transferred to a novel task-pair when one (first study) or both (second study) tasks in the context changed. The third study supported theories that have defined the mechanism of interruption handling skill as an improvement to primary task goal state and action sequence memory, rather than reconstruction, by showing that resumption times improved even when the onscreen display of the primary task’s target state was removed at resumption. This study also supported the task-general view of interruption handling skill by providing evidence that interruption handling skill acquisition and transfer did not strongly relate to primary task skill acquisition and transfer. The fourth study tested for interruption handling skill transfer across novel interruption contexts when interruption duration, the availability of pre-interruption rehearsal, or both differed at transfer. The results showed resumption time improvements across interruption contexts, indicating that rehearsal and retrieval mechanisms vital for interruption resumption remained similar across contexts for skill transfer. Although further research is needed to understand the extent to which this transfer is fully task-general, the theory supported by these studies provides new directions for the study of interruption handling skill and has implications for the development of training methods for reducing interruption interference in high-risk workplaces.