Understanding human-technology interactions: the role of prior experience and age
O'Brien, Marita Anne
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Everyday technologies are intended for use by everyone with no specific training and minimal instructions. Prior research (e.g., Norman, 2002; Polson&Lewis, 1990) suggests that these technologies are usable if users can leverage their prior experience. However, different users will leverage difference experiences to operate the same technologies (Blackler, Popovic,&Mahar, 2003a). This dissertation systematically examined use of prior knowledge in the operation of everyday technology by diverse users, specifically users of different ages and experience levels. In Study 1 encounters with everyday technologies were self-reported by younger adults, older adults with low technology experience, and older adults with high technology experience. Comparisons of technology repertoires for each participant group indicated similar usage between younger adults and high tech older adults that differed in expected domains. Low tech older adults used fewer technologies, but overall they used more than expected across domains. Prior experience generally helped participants have successful encounters, but in some cases introduced problems. In Study 2 video recorded observations were made during participant interactions with exemplar everyday technologies. Participants with more relevant experience generally performed better. Older adults exhibited more inter-individual variability in their performance levels. Appropriate use of prior experience, an unassuming approach to the interaction, and using information on the technology generally led to more successful performance. Results from both studies can provide theoretical and practical support for more effective design that reflects how the target population will use their prior experience.