Externalization vs. internalization: the influence on problem solving performance

C. van Nimwegen, H. van Oostendorp, H.J.M. Tabachneck-Schijf
IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies, 2004. Proceedings.  
This research investigates how externalizing information in program-interfaces influences problem solving performance. Externalization as screenrepresentation provides relevant interface-feedback, and remembering certain task-related knowledge becomes unnecessary, relieving working memory (WM). Examples are visual feedback aids such as "graying out" nonapplicable menu-items. Differently, when certain taskrelated information is unavailable, it needs to be internalized, stored in WM. We examined
more » ... in WM. We examined the hypotheses that externalization yields better performance during initial learning, while later, internalization yields better performance and knowledge. Two versions (internalized & externalized) of an isomorph of the "missionaries and cannibals" problem were tested. 30 subjects solved 6 problems, then performed a distraction task erasing WM, and solved 3 more problems. Also knowledge of the problem's rules and states was tested. Internalization yielded better knowledge and reaching less dead-end problem-states. Time needed, steps and error-rates were in the expected direction, but not significantly. This research contributes to GUI design-guidelines for human-computer interaction of problem-solving tasks.
doi:10.1109/icalt.2004.1357426 dblp:conf/icalt/NimwegenOS04 fatcat:c43xpw46zjc6pd54fvv25dxghq