Does an interface with less assistance provoke more thoughtful behavior?

Van Nimwegen, C., Van Oostendorp, H., Burgos, D., & Koper, R. (2006, June). Does an interface with less assistance provoke more thoughtful behavior?. In Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Learning sciences (pp. 785-791). International Society of the Learning Sciences.


This paper investigates effects of interface style and cognitive style on problem solving performance. It is often assumed that performance improves when information is externalized onto the interface. Although relieving working memory this may discourage planning, understanding and knowledge acquisition. When information is not externalized, it must be internalized, stored in the user’s memory, requiring more planning and thinking, perhaps leading to better performance and knowledge. Another variable influencing behavior is the cognitive style of users. We included «Need for Cognition» (NFC), the tendency to engage in cognitive tasks. We investigated the effects of interface style and NFC using planning tasks. The internalization interface led to more planful behavior and smarter solutions, but NFC had no effect. Understanding reactions to interface information is crucial in designing software aimed at education and learning. To facilitate active learning and provoke better performance, designers should take care in giving users (too) much assistance.