Multitasking with Alexa: how using intelligent personal assistants impacts language-based primary task performance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


  • Justin Edwards
  • He Liu
  • Tianyu Zhou
  • Leigh Clark
  • Philip Doyle
  • Benjamin R. Cowan

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University College Dublin


Intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) are supposed to help us multitask. Yet the impact of IPA use on multitasking is not clearly quantified, particularly in situations where primary tasks are also language based. Using a dual task paradigm, our study observes how IPA interactions impact two different types of writing primary tasks; copying and generating content.We found writing tasks that involve content generation, which are more cognitively demanding and share more of the resources needed for IPA use, are significantly more disrupted by IPA interaction than less demanding tasks such as copying content. We discuss how theories of cognitive resources, including multiple resource theory and working memory, explain these results. We also outline the need for future work how interruption length and relevance may impact primary task performance as well as the need to identify effects of interruption timing in user and IPA led interruptions.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCUI '19 Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Conversational User Interfaces
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2019
Event1st International Conference on Conversational User Interfaces (CUI '19) - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 22 Aug 201923 Aug 2019


Conference1st International Conference on Conversational User Interfaces (CUI '19)


  • speech interface, voice user interface, intelligent personal assistants, multitasking, dual task, interruptions