Time orientation and multi-tasking

Yan Zhang, Ravindra S Goonetilleke

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


Past research has classified people as monochrons (M) or polychrons (P) depending on their use of time. When people encounter many tasks, monochrons do one thing at a time while polychrons do many things at once. This study attempts to investigate how task difficulty and task priority influence the strategy and performance of monochrons and polychrons. A hill-climbing task was used to simulate a bivariate process control task. Participants were requested to find the optimum (hill-top) of two differing hills and remain at the top using the minimum number of clicks. The Modified Polychronic Attitude Index 3 scale (Lindquist et al., 2001) and Inventory of Polychronic Values scale (Bluedorn et al., 1999) were used to classify the participants as monochrons or polychrons. A fullfactorial within-subject experiment with 2 time-use groups, 4 task difficulties, 3 priorities, and 8 trials was conducted. The strategy and performance measures of each individual were calculated. Results showed that the strategies and performances were significantly different between monochrons and polychrons in the different task conditions. In general, the switching between the two tasks was less for monochrons compared to polychrons. Overall performance of polychrons was significantly better than that of monochrons. In addition, two and three-way
interactions among the M/P group, difficulty and priority for both strategy and performance were significant. The results of this study may be used to determine the optimal performance of people having differing usages of time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the IFAC/IFIP/IFORS/IEA Symposium on Analysis, Design, and Evaluation of Human-Machine Systems
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004
Externally publishedYes


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