Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

S. Douglas Pugh

Second Advisor

Allison S. Gabriel

Third Advisor

Frank A. Bosco

Fourth Advisor

Jeffrey D. Green


Employees in many occupations deplete cognitive resources of attention and energy (Dodge, 1913; Kahneman, 1973), impacting performance on subsequent work tasks (Dalal, Bhave, & Fiset, 2014). Individuals spend upwards of 10% of formal work time taking a break completing non-work tasks (Esteves, 2013; McGehee & Owen, 1940) in an effort to replenish these resources (Fritz, Lam, & Spritzer, 2011; Kim et al., 2014). This study used a randomized controlled experiment to answer three questions that are new contributions to the literature. First, I explored if engaging in a specific activity (watching a funny video, meditating, or completing a different work task) during the microbreak helped induce recovery processes. Second, I questioned if an individual’s appraisal (psychological detachment, relaxation, and enjoyment) of the break impacted outcomes in addition to, or potentially more than, engaging in a break activity. Third, I investigated if the time duration (1-minute, 5-minute, or 9-minute) of the microbreak impacted outcomes. Results show that taking any break between work tasks allowed individuals to feel less fatigued, more energized, and more attentive. Surprisingly, in many instances a 1-minute break was just as effective as taking a longer break of 5 or 9 minutes, and for these shorter break periods, engaging in a different work task for a short period rather than disengaging from work was the best at improving attention. In addition, to increase feeling energized at work, appraising the break as being enjoyable was more important than the actual break activity. Combined, this study has both an academic and practical impact, finding that just like with work that depletes physical resources, short breaks also benefit employees engaging in work that depleted cognitive resources.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission