Date of Award

12-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Management

Advisor

Grover, Varun

Committee Member

Pak , Richard

Committee Member

Scott , Kristin

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the negative and positive outcomes of information and communication technology (ICT) in facilitating and reducing stress. The goals of this dissertation are twofold: 1) to deepen our understanding of how ICT-enabled interruptions influence individuals' episodic stress and 2) to examine whether ICTs may also be used to diminish stress evoked by ICT-enabled interruptions. Originating from psychology, the demands control model (Karasek, 1979) is used as an overarching theoretical lens to explain this technology-based duality, where technology serves as both a problem causing and a solution alleviating stress. The demands control model suggests that stressors have their greatest impact when control is low and demand stressors are high.
This dissertation examined three characteristics of demands: the quantity of the ICT-enabled interruptions (quantitative demand), the variability of the ICT-enabled interruptions (demand variability), and the profile of the message (confounding or cooperating). To understand how to mitigate demands' outcomes, we examined three moderators of the demand stressor/strain relationship: ICT-enabled timing control, ICT-enabled method control, and resource control. Applying these factors within the demands control model, we argued that control factors mitigate the effects of high demands on both stress and strain.
We tested our model using experimental design by administering two laboratory experiments. In doing so, we adopted a multi-method approach that uncovered how the body psychologically and physiologically reacts to ICT-based stressors. To examine physiological outcomes, we used two advanced tools that non-invasively captured indicators of strain: 1) salivettes captured cortisol and alpha-amylase found in saliva and 2) blood pressure recorders captured blood pressure and pulse rate. Then, we validated Likert-type scales to supplement objective indicators of stress.
Our results indicated that strain was apparent when stress results from ICT-enabled stressors. In Experiment 1, we found that ICT-enabled interruption characteristics associated with demands served as stressors and led to perceptual stress (formed of perceptual overload, conflict, and ambiguity). We then found that ICT-enabled timing control negatively moderated the relationships between stressors and stress. Finally, our analysis revealed that perceptual overload positively led to strain, perceptual ambiguity partially led to strain, and perceptual conflict did not lead to strain.
In Experiment 2, we found that coping behaviors negatively moderated the relationships between stressors, stress, and strain. Specifically, we found support for overall coping when it came to objective strain; however, we found no support that coping was a moderator with perceptual strain. In terms of specific coping behaviors, we found support that resource control minimized objective strain, while ICT-enabled method control minimized perceived and objective strain. We then tested the simple slopes of the coping interactions with respect to alpha-amylase and found that resource control decreased strain entirely no matter what level of stress the individual felt, while ICT-enabled method control had to be enacted during high stress environments for it to be a coping behavior. Further, if ICT-enabled method control was enacted in low stress environments; it could actually change form and become a stressor.
Our results have implications for research, method, and practice. First, we articulated a novel model of interruption-based stress and laid the foundation for understanding how ICT use creates feelings of strain and actual tension in individuals. Second, we were amongst the first to manipulate specific ICT-enabled antecedents of perceptual episodic stress. Third, we extended research on coping behaviors by objectively manipulating the enabling technology and examining the physiological changes that occur from their enactment. Finally, we extended our understanding of the relationship between ICT-enabled interruptions and objective strain.

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