To Repeat or Not to Repeat? Redesigning Repeating Auditory Alarms Based on EEG Analysis

Yi-Chen Lee, Fu-Yin Cherng, Wen-Chieh Lin, Jung-Tai King.

ACM CHI 2019



Auditory alarms that repeatedly interrupt users until they react are common, especially in the context of alarms. However, when an alarm repeats, our brains habituate to it and perceive it less and less, with reductions in both perception and attention-shifting: a phenomenon known as the repetition-suppression effect (RS). To retain users’ perception and attention, this paper proposes and tests the use of pitch- and intensity-modulated alarms. Its experimental findings suggest that the proposed modulated alarms can reduce RS, albeit in different patterns, depending on whether pitch or intensity is the focus of the modulation. Specifically, pitch-modulated alarms were found to reduce RS more when the number of repetitions was small, while intensity-modulated alarms reduced it more as the number of repetitions increased. Based on these results, we make several recommendations for the design of improved repeating alarms, based on which modulation approach should be adopted in various situations.