IS Faculty Win Best Paper Award

PROVO, Utah – Dec 27, 2017 –

You’re frantically finishing up a deadline-driven project when you receive an unwelcome visit from a popup warning such as this:

Odds are, you’ll click “dismiss.” But why and when you do so was discovered through award-winning research performed by professors at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Information systems faculty Bonnie Anderson, Jeff Jenkins, and Anthony Vance—along with C. Brock Kirwan, a BYU professor of psychology and neuroscience, and David Eargle, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder—worked on the study. Their paper, “More Harm than Good? How Messages that Interrupt Can Make Us Vulnerable,” was published in Information Systems Research, one of the top publications in the field. It won an award for Best Published Paper at the annual meeting for INFORMS, an international association for operations research and analytics professionals.

“It’s an honor,” says Anderson, the BYU Marriott Department of Information Systems chair. “It’s a huge deal to get a publication in Information Systems Research at all, let alone to be the best one for the year.”

The faculty conducted research on dual task interference (translation: “multitasking”) and found that the brain functions best when focusing on one task at a time. Their findings explain why nearly 90 percent of users disregard security warnings from software developers when they arrive at inopportune moments: while watching a video, uploading files, or typing up a last-minute assignment, for example.

“It’s fighting biology,” says Anderson. “These security measures we’re trying to have people follow are not natural. There’s a lot of stuff in your life that just blurs by, and your brain lumps security messages together with that.”

The group of professors began working together in 2013, forming a team aimed at researching what they dubbed “neurosecurity,” or the application of neuroscience to behavioral information security. The group has presented its research findings in countries around the world, including Austria, Israel, and Turkey, and have been covered by news sites such as Huffington Post, CNET, and The Register.

The team has also been collaborating with Google Chrome developers, who are currently working to implement the study results and improve the timing of security messages.

“Combining the neuroscience research with practical field studies as our team is able to do is a very powerful approach,” Kirwan says. “Our research strikes a chord with researchers in information systems because we address a timely topic from the perspective of the underlying brain processes of the users.”

The BYU Marriott School of Business prepares men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Named for benefactors J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, the school is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. BYU Marriott has four graduate and ten undergraduate programs with an enrollment of approximately 3,300 students.

Professors and Brains
BYU professors Jeff Jenkins, Anthony Vance Bonnie Anderson, and C. Brock Kirwan (left to right) comprise an award-winning research team aimed at studying "neurosecurity," the application of neuroscience to behavioral information security.

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Afton Izu