PRISM measure development: The design and validation of the computer proficiency questionnaire

W. R. Boot, N. Charness, S. J. Czaja, J. Sharit, W. A. Rogers, A. D. Fisk, T. Mitzner, C. C. Lee, S. Nair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Efficient and effective computer and internet training depends on an understanding of an older adult's existing level of proficiency. However, in the development of the PRISM trial (assessing whether a specialized computer system can improve the well-being of older adults at risk for isolation), we discovered that existing measures of computer proficiency are not suitable for people targeted by the PRISM trial who do not use computers. Measures were often designed for and validated with sample populations consisting of young adults or older adults who have ample computer experience. Existing measures also contained jargon, did not focus on computer activities predicted to be important for maintaining functional independence, and focused on experience rather than proficiency. As a result, we developed a new measure of proficiency and assessed its reliability and validity within our PRISM intervention sample and a sample of older adults who have computer experience. Subscale measures focused on measuring proficiency related to computer activities that are predicted to facilitate social support, communication, information access, prospective memory, and cognitive engagement. Here we present new data from the intervention, which further validate the Computer Proficiency Questionnaire (CPQ) measurements by demonstrating increased proficiency over time after PRISM computer training and exposure. Method: After pilot testing our new CPQ, we used baseline PRISM data (n=300) in addition to a sample of computer-proficient older adults (n=76) to demonstrate the reliability and validity of the CPQ1. We also measured CPQ scores over the course of a 12-month exposure to the PRISM computer system. Results & Discussion: We previously reported that the CPQ is a valid measure which correlates with both age and technology experience and, using discriminant analysis, can easily distinguish experienced and inexperienced computer users (>94% correct classification rate). The CPQ and each of its subscales were also found to be highly reliable (Cronbach's alpha=0.98, all CPQ subscales >0.86). To further demonstrate the validity of the CPQ, we examined changes in CPQ scores of older adults in the PRISM computer condition compared to participants in the non-computer control condition. After PRISM computer training and exposure, initial analyses indicated that PRISM participants demonstrated a significant increase in overall computer proficiency compared to the control condition as measured by the CPQ. Differential improvement in proficiency was also observed on each of the CPQ subscales. The ability of the CPQ to detect changes in proficiency as a function of training further establishes it as a valid measure, and significant changes in proficiency confirm the usefulness of the training developed for the PRISM computer system and the ease with which it can be mastered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-75
Number of pages2
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer proficiency
  • Computer training
  • Housing & daily activities
  • Technology use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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