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Joel Spolsky wrote a famous blog post "Human Task Switches considered harmful".

While I agree with the premise and it seems like common sense, I'm wondering if there are any studies or white papers on this to calculate the overhead on task switches, or is the evidence merely anecdotal?

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Great question! – Damovisa Sep 2 '10 at 7:10
Is this actually subjective enough? – Casebash Sep 2 '10 at 13:25
@Casebah - good point. I wonder if I asked this on Stackoverflow itself whether it would be answered or closed as "not programming related"? I'll push the discussion up to "meta" – Paddyslacker Sep 2 '10 at 14:24
up vote 8 down vote accepted

The abstract of a study that says 'maybe'

Another study [PDF] that says interruptions make things seem like they took longer.

A study[PDF] that says interruptions increase resumption lag time, but that cues seen in the task before the interruption can speed recovery time.

Task switching[PDF] takes a significant portion of our work week.

More reading on the psychology of interruptions than you can shake a stick at.

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A very thorough answer! – Paddyslacker Sep 3 '10 at 14:54
Suggest updating your answer to include the recent article "programmer interrupted" which pulls from many data sources and further supports Spolsky. – Noah Sussman May 16 '14 at 21:16

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