Performance in a planning task: The (ir)relevance of interface style and users’ cognitive style

Christof Van Nimwegen, D. Burgos Solans

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


    This research investigates whether interface style (internalization or externalization) influences performance in a problem solving task. Assistance from a user interface during problem solving is often thought to make interactions easier. Interfaces often display relevant information, making recall unnecessary and relieving working memory, called externalization (e.g. feedback aids such as “graying out” menu-items). By externalizing information, display-based behavior is provoked, which however does not necessarily instigate planning, understanding and knowledge acquisition. When certain task-information is less directly available, it needs to be internalized, stored in memory, provoking plan-based behavior, which may lead to better performance and knowledge. To provoke these behaviors, we manipulated the interface of a conference planning application. We also included the users’ cognitive style, in this case “need for cognition” (NFC), the tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive tasks. High-NFC subjects generally plan more, leading to better performance. Results show that interface style indeed influences problem-solving behavior, but NFC does not. Internalization resulted in more planful behavior, better solution routes and less reconsidered actions. If plan-based behavior is preferred, designers should be careful in giving users too much assistance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2005
    EventConference On Human Factors in Computing Systems - Portland, United States
    Duration: 2 Apr 20057 Apr 2005


    ConferenceConference On Human Factors in Computing Systems
    Abbreviated titleCHI 2005
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Internet address


    • Human factors
    • Need for Cognition
    • Interface
    • Planning
    • Problem solving
    • Externalization


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