The Paradox of the Assisted User: Guidance Leads to more Shallow Behavior

Christof van Nimwegen, H. van Oostendorp, H.J.M. Schijf, D. Burgos Solans

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


    This research investigates whether certain interface styles (internalization or externalization) and cognitive style influence performance on a problem solving task. It is often hypothesized that performance on problem solving tasks improves when certain task related information is being externalized on the interface. This externalization is thought to assist the user by making recall less necessary and relieving working memory. Here, display-based behavior is provoked, which however does not necessarily instigate planning, understanding and knowledge acquisition. When this assistance on the interface is absent, certain task-information needs to be internalized, stored in memory. This is thought to provoke plan-based behavior, which may lead to better performance and knowledge. Another variable that influences user behavior, is “Need for Cognition” (NFC), the tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive tasks. High NFC subjects are assumed to plan more, leading to better performance and knowledge. We did an experiment using a conference planning application, in which effects of interface styles and cognitive style were compared. The results show that interface style indeed influenced problem-solving behavior, but NFC does not. The internalization interface caused more planful behavior, better solution routes and less reconsidered actions. We conclude that when a plan-based approach is preferred, designers should take care in giving a user (too) much help.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2005
    EventCHI 2006 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Palais des Congrès (Convention Center), Montreal, Canada
    Duration: 22 Apr 200627 Apr 2006


    ConferenceCHI 2006 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
    Abbreviated titleCHI06
    Internet address


    • Human factors
    • Interface design
    • Problem solving
    • Externalization


    Dive into the research topics of 'The Paradox of the Assisted User: Guidance Leads to more Shallow Behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this