Increasing Information Access Cost to Protect Against Interruption Effects during Problem Solving


The aim of this experiment was to examine whether increasing the cost of accessing the goal-state during problem solving would induce a more internalized strategy that would protect against the negative effect of interruption. The soft constraints hypothesis (Gray, Sims, Fu & Schoelles, 2006) predicts that a more memory-based strategy will be developed with increasing information access cost (IAC). Three levels of access cost were used in the Tower of Hanoi (ToH) with three types of interrupting task (simple ToH, mental arithmetic and a blank screen control). Increasing access cost to a mouse movement and a few seconds delay to view the goal-state encouraged a strategy that not only improved resumption from memory but also reduced the number of moves required to solve the primary task. These effects came at no extra time cost and occurred irrespective of the type of interrupting task. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed together with issues of using access cost as a method for alleviating the negative effects of interruption.

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