A recent study conducted by scientistс from Brigham Young University has raised some interesting points about security notifications on our computers. The problem arises from our brain’s inability to multitask quickly.
More About the Research
The study monitored people’s brain activity while using a computer. While users are busy working on a task, they’re likely to miss or ignore security messages displayed by the computer. The interruption makes it likely that users will get frustrated and not pay attention to the message. Dual-task interference or DTI is a cognitive limitation that makes multitasking hard. Our performance gets even worse when we’re interrupted.
The Best Time to Display a Security Notification
To avoid frustrating users while they’re doing something important, notifications are best displayed. The best time to notify users is when they’re inactive; while their computer is loading or they have finished watching a video. That eliminates the danger of interrupting the user while he or she is doing something important.
The results of the research can be integrated into future notification software. Pop-ups containing information that’s not immediately important should also be avoided. Users can get numb to the messages if they’re constantly bombarded with them. It’s similar to a defective fire alarm. If it goes off too often, people start to think that it’s safe to ignore it. That means that whenever there’s a real fire, the building wouldn’t be completely evacuated, which defeats the whole purpose of the alarm.
More Information About Intrusive Messaging
While displaying tons of messages can be effective for a short time, problems arise when it’s constant. The advertising business knows that well. There was a time when people couldn’t browse the web without encountering pop-ups at every click. Eventually, people got so fed up with it that ad-blocker was installed on most regular internet users. Facebook will bypass ads in the future, which sounds like a bad idea, as it’ll frustrate users who don’t want to be interrupted while using the site. As the research shows, an overload of messages, notifications, and pop-ups has the exact opposite of the intended effect.
Let’s hope that the BYU will improve the distribution of information in the future. A more careful, less intrusive approach to the notification may be exactly the thing that we need to distribute information. People hate being interrupted. It’s the whole reason why the paperclip assistant in the earlier version of Windows died… and shouldn’t be resurrected. Ever!