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Advances in Human-Computer Interaction
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 420169, 8 pages
Research Article

Computer Breakdown as a Stress Factor during Task Completion under Time Pressure: Identifying Gender Differences Based on Skin Conductance

1School of Management, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Wehrgrabengasse 1-3, 4400 Steyr, Austria
2Department of Business Informatics—Information Engineering, University of Linz, Linz, Austria
3Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Linz General Hospital, Linz, Austria

Received 3 May 2013; Revised 2 September 2013; Accepted 10 September 2013

Academic Editor: Ian Oakley

Copyright © 2013 René Riedl et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In today’s society, as computers, the Internet, and mobile phones pervade almost every corner of life, the impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on humans is dramatic. The use of ICT, however, may also have a negative side. Human interaction with technology may lead to notable stress perceptions, a phenomenon referred to as technostress. An investigation of the literature reveals that computer users’ gender has largely been ignored in technostress research, treating users as “gender-neutral.” To close this significant research gap, we conducted a laboratory experiment in which we investigated users’ physiological reaction to the malfunctioning of technology. Based on theories which explain that men, in contrast to women, are more sensitive to “achievement stress,” we predicted that male users would exhibit higher levels of stress than women in cases of system breakdown during the execution of a human-computer interaction task under time pressure, if compared to a breakdown situation without time pressure. Using skin conductance as a stress indicator, the hypothesis was confirmed. Thus, this study shows that user gender is crucial to better understanding the influence of stress factors such as computer malfunctions on physiological stress reactions.