Now Check Your Input: Brief Task Lockouts Encourage Checking, Longer Lockouts Encourage Task Switching

in Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Journal article


Data-entry is a common activity that is usually performed accurately. When errors do occur though, people are poor at spotting them even if they are told to check their input. We considered whether making people pause for a brief moment before confirming their input would make them more likely to check it. We ran a lab experiment to test this idea. We found that task lockouts encouraged checking. Longer lockout durations made checking more likely. We ran a second experiment on a crowdsourcing platform to find out whether lockouts would still be effective in a less controlled setting. We discovered that longer lockouts induced workers to switch to other activities. This made the lockouts less effective. To be useful in practice, the duration of lockouts needs to be carefully calibrated. If lockouts are too brief they will not encourage checking. If they are too long they will induce switching.