Understanding age and technology experience differences in use of prior knowledge for everyday technology interactions

Marita A. O'Brien, Wendy A. Rogers, Arthur D. Fisk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Technology designers must understand relevant prior knowledge in a target user population to facilitate adoption and effective use. To assess prior knowledge used in naturalistic settings, we systematically collected information about technologies used over 10-day periods from older adults with high and low technology experience and younger adults. Technology repertoires for younger adults and high technology older adults were similar; differences reflected typically different needs for kitchen and health care technologies between the age groups. Technology repertoires for low-technology older adults showed substantial technology usage in many categories. Lower usage compared to high-tech older adults for each category was limited primarily to PC and Internet technologies. Experience differences suggest preferences among low-technology older adults for basic technology usage and for working with people rather than technologies. Participants in all groups were generally successful using their everyday technologies to achieve their goals. Prior knowledge was the most common attribution for success, but external information was also commonly referenced. Relevant prior knowledge included technical, functional, strategy, and self knowledge. High tech older adults did not report more problems than younger adults, but they did attribute more problems to insufficient prior knowledge. Younger adults attributed more problems to interference from prior knowledge. Low-tech older adults reported fewer problems, typically attributing them to insufficient prior knowledge or product/system faults. We discuss implications for further research and design improvements to increase everyday technology success and adoption for high-tech and low-tech older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalACM Transactions on Accessible Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Design
  • Human Factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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