NSF Supplement Awarded for 2016

We have been awarded $58,185 by the NSF to supplement our grant, “The Force of Habit: Using fMRI to Explain Users’ Habituation” (CNS-1422831). The purpose of this supplement is to investigate how habituation (i.e., warning fatigue) to frequent pop-up notifications and warnings carries over or generalizes to warnings that a user hasn’t seen before.

From the supplement proposal:

Generalization occurs when the effects of habituation to a repeated stimulus carry over to other novel stimuli that are similar in appearance. Applied to the domain of information security, generalization suggests that users not only habituate to individual security warnings, but also to whole classes of notifications and warnings that share a similar appearance and user interaction (UI) paradigm (see Figure 1). If true, then the threat and potential impact of habituation is much broader than previous work has suggested, as a user may already be deeply habituated to a security warning that he/she has never seen before.

Figure 1. A notification (top) and security warning (bottom). Note the similarities in UI and mode of interaction.

With this proposal, we seek supplemental funding to build upon the findings of our original grant to investigate this research avenue. We outline a series of complementary experiments using eye tracking and fMRI to (1) measure the extent to which the effects of habituation generalize across similar types of notifications and security warnings, and (2) determine warning designs that can reduce the occurrence of generalization.

With this supplement, the total NSF award is $352,526.