Training adult novices to use computers: Effects of different types of illustrations

E. James Kehoe*, Timothy C. Bednall, Leon Yin, Kirk N. Olsen, Claudia Pitts, Julie D. Henry, Phoebe E. Bailey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Two experiments examined the acquisition of word-processing skills (Experiment 1) and internet usage skills (Experiment 2) by novice adults using three types of illustration, specifically, full-screen illustrations with the text superimposed, icons embedded in the text, and a control, text-only condition. Training with the full-screen or embedded icons yielded significant improvements in performance relative to the text-only condition only in tests that simply required the participants to repeat the step-by-step directions. When tests required that the participants themselves retrieve and reproduce the sequence of steps, the training with illustrations - especially the full-screen illustrations - repeatedly had a negative effect on performance. The results suggest that the illustrations, by making it easy to execute each step of a procedure during training, encouraged superficial processing, which in turn yielded a set of stimulus-response associations rather than a well-linked sequence of actions in long-term memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-283
Number of pages9
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult learning
  • Cognitive load
  • Computer training
  • Illustration
  • Novices


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