The internet and manuals: A use-oriented study of the acquisition of novel procedural knowledge

Thanks to modern technological advancements (e.g., the Internet), information that can be leveraged to complete tasks requiring procedural knowledge has expanded rapidly. Adults who encounter many unfamiliar procedural problems (e.g., repairs, assembly) can leverage a variety of external resources including how-to videos or written articles on the Internet, traditional instruction manuals, or social resources. The current study is designed to identify individual differences in how people approach novel tasks that require procedural knowledge in an environment that resembles real-world human-machine tasks. Participants completed a series of self-report assessments, a computer component knowledge test, and a hands-on computer upgrade task in which they were required to replace a power supply, replace a graphics card and install a solid-state drive. Results indicated that prior knowledge and experience, along with selfassessments of knowledge and task self-efficacy are critical determinants of whether participants completed the task and how quickly they did so. Additionally, participants who did not complete the task referenced the Internet and task instructions more frequently than participants who did complete the task. Implications for assessing the ability to acquire procedural knowledge in an ecologically valid laboratory setting are discussed.