Improving the match between callers and receivers: A study on the effect of contextual information on cell phone interruptions

D. Avrahami*, D. Gergle, S. E. Hudson, S. Kiesler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


A problem with the location-free nature of cell phones is that callers have difficulty predicting receivers' states, leading to inappropriate calls. One promising solution involves helping callers decide when to interrupt by providing them contextual information about receivers. We tested the effectiveness of different kinds of contextual information by measuring the degree of agreement between receivers' desires and callers' decisions. In a simulation, five groups of participants played the role of 'Callers', choosing between making calls or leaving messages, and a sixth group played the role of 'Receivers', choosing between receiving calls or receiving messages. Callers were provided different contextual information about Receivers' locations, their cell phones' ringer state, the presence of others, or no information at all. Callers provided with contextual information made significantly more accurate decisions than those without it. Our results suggest that different contextual information generates different kinds of improvements: more appropriate interruptions or better avoidance of inappropriate interruptions. We discuss the results and implications for practice in the light of other important considerations, such as privacy and technological simplicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-259
Number of pages13
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Awareness systems
  • Context-aware computing
  • Interruptions
  • Mobile communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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