Improving the effectiveness of an interruption lag by inducing a memory-based strategy

Phillip Morgan, John Patrick, Leyanne Tiley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The memory for goals model (Altmann and Trafton, 2002) posits the importance of a short delay (the 'interruption lag') before an interrupting task to encode suspended goals for retrieval post-interruption. Two experiments used the theory of soft constraints (Gray, Simms, Fu and Schoelles, 2006) to investigate whether the efficacy of an interruption lag could be improved by increasing goal-state access cost to induce a more memory-based encoding strategy. Both experiments used a copying task with three access cost conditions (Low, Medium, and High) and a 5-s interruption lag with a no lag control condition. Experiment 1 found that the participants in the High access cost condition resumed more interrupted trials and executed more actions correctly from memory when coupled with an interruption lag. Experiment 2 used a prospective memory test post-interruption and an eyetracker recorded gaze activity during the interruption lag. The participants in the High access cost condition with an interruption lag were best at encoding target information during the interruption lag, evidenced by higher scores on the prospective memory measure and more gaze activity on the goal-state during the interruption lag. Theoretical and practical issues regarding the use of goal-state access cost and an interruption lag are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87 - 95
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • interruption
  • interruption lag
  • soft constraint hypothesis
  • information access cost


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