A look at task-switching and multi-tasking behaviors: From the perspective of the computer usage among a large number of people

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Computers in Human Behavior, ISSN: 0747-5632, Vol: 49, Page: 237-244

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Tongda Zhang; Xiao Sun; Yueting Chai; Hamid Aghajan
Elsevier BV
Arts and Humanities; Computer Science; Psychology
article description
In the past decade, online applications and working platforms, instant messengers and online social networks have become progressively mainstream with the introduction of easily accessible internet and commercially available technological devices. One of the results of the explosion of these online applications and working platforms is the emergence of more and more multitasking activity, that people are doing several types of tasks on computers or mobile devices simultaneously. In this paper, we present an intensive study on a dataset which contains over 15 million computer operation log records from 3000 random selected subjects. The dataset gives us an opportunity to look into people real-world task-switching behavior of computer usage in a very large scale. We explore the characteristics and the “star” structure of people’s general task-switching and multitasking behaviors on a group level. Our experiments show the existence of Power-law distributions in subjects’ task-switching activities, which suggests that most of the task-switching events in the dataset are around to a very small number of some “hub” computer-based tasks. Those top “hub” tasks include online chatting, browsing internet, document editing and online shopping. At last, the paper explored the interplay between subjects’ age attribute and their active level during task-switching activities in a quantitative way.