A Spatial Memory Mechanism for Guiding Primary Task Resumption




Ratwani, Raj M.

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Theories accounting for the task resumption process following an interruption have primarily been memory based accounts (Altmann & Trafton, 2002, 2007; Oulasvirta & Sarrlilouma, 2004). The purpose of this study was to examine the resumption process at the perceptual level to determine whether spatial memory processes are used to resume and to determine whether these processes can be directly integrated with an activation-based theoretical framework of goal memory (Altmann & Trafton, 2002). Based on previous literature two plausible hypotheses, a retrace hypothesis and a spatial memory hypothesis, were examined to account for the perceptual processes used to resume an interrupted task. Six eye movement studies, using two different tasks that varied in task structure, were conducted to distinguish between these two hypotheses. In Experiments 1 and 4, the pattern of eye movements upon resumption was examined to distinguish between the retrace and spatial memory hypotheses. In Experiments 2 and 5, an interrupting task that required spatial working memory resources was shown to be more disruptive than a non-spatial interrupting task. These results directly implicate spatial memory in the task resumption process. In Experiments 3 and 6, interruption length was manipulated to determine whether spatial memory remains intact over longer interruption lengths. Together, the results of these experiments provide strong support for a spatial memory mechanism of task resumption that can be directly integrated with the Altmann and Trafton (2002, 2007) memory for goals theory.



Spatial memory, Interruptions, Eye tracking, Goal memory