Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 162–171 | Cite as

What skilled typists don’t know about the QWERTY keyboard

  • Kristy M. SnyderEmail author
  • Yuki Ashitaka
  • Hiroyuki Shimada
  • Jana E. Ulrich
  • Gordon D. Logan


We conducted four experiments to investigate skilled typists’ explicit knowledge of the locations of keys on the QWERTY keyboard, with three procedures: free recall (Exp. 1), cued recall (Exp. 2), and recognition (Exp. 3). We found that skilled typists’ explicit knowledge of key locations is incomplete and inaccurate. The findings are consistent with theories of skilled performance and automaticity that associate implicit knowledge with skilled performance and explicit knowledge with novice performance. In Experiment 4, we investigated whether novice typists acquire more complete explicit knowledge of key locations when learning to touch-type. We had skilled QWERTY typists complete a Dvorak touch-typing tutorial. We then tested their explicit knowledge of the Dvorak and QWERTY key locations with the free recall task. We found no difference in explicit knowledge of the two keyboards, suggesting that typists know little about key locations on the keyboard, whether they are exposed to the keyboard for 2 h or 12 years.


Automaticity Cognitive control Automaticity Implicit/explicit memory 


Author note

This research was supported by Grant Nos. BCS 0957074 and BCS 1257272 from the National Science Foundation.


  1. Anderson, J. R. (1982). Acquisition of cognitive skill. Psychological Review, 89, 369–406. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.89.4.369 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. R., Fincham, J. M., & Douglass, S. (1997). The role of examples and rules in the acquisition of a cognitive skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 23, 932–945. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.23.4.932 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bahrick, H. P. (1984). Semantic memory content in permastore: Fifty years of memory for Spanish learned in school. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, 1–29. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.113.1.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beilock, S. L., & Carr, T. H. (2001). On the fragility of skilled performance: What governs choking under pressure? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 701–725. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.130.4.701 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beilock, S. L., Wierenga, S. A., & Carr, T. H. (2002). Expertise, attention, and memory in sensorimotor skill execution: Impact of novel task constraints on dual-task performance and episodic memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55A, 1211–1240. doi: 10.1080/02724980244000170 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Castel, A. D., Vendetti, M., & Holyoak, K. J. (2013). Fire drill: Inattentional blindness and amnesia for the location of fire extinguishers. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74, 1391–1396. doi: 10.3758/s13414-012-0355-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crump, M. J. C., & Logan, G. D. (2010). Hierarchical control over skilled typing: Evidence for word-level control over the execution of individual keystrokes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36, 1369–1380. doi: 10.1037/a0020696 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dvorak, A., Merrick, N. L., Dealey, W. L., & Ford, G. C. (1936). Typewriting behavior. New York: American Book Co.Google Scholar
  9. Ebbinghaus, H. (1964). Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology (H. A. Ruger & C. E. Bussenius, Trans.). New York: Dover. Original work published 1895.Google Scholar
  10. Ericsson, K. A., & Charness, N. (1994). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49, 725–747. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.49.8.725 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fitts, P. M., & Posner, M. I. (1967). Human performance. Monterey: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  12. James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Henry Holt.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kahana, M. J., & Howard, M. W. (2005). Spacing and lag effects in free recall of pure lists. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 159–164. doi: 10.3758/BF03196362 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kolers, P. A. (1976). Reading a year later. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 2, 554–565. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.2.5.554 Google Scholar
  15. Liu, X., Crump, M. J. C., & Logan, G. D. (2010). Do you know where your fingers have been? Explicit knowledge of the spatial layout of the keyboard in skilled typists. Memory & Cognition, 38, 474–484. doi: 10.3758/MC.38.4.474 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Logan, G. D. (1988). Toward an instance theory of automatization. Psychological Review, 95, 492–527. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.95.4.492 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Logan, G. D., & Crump, M. J. C. (2009). The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing: The disruptive effects of attention to the hands in skilled typewriting. Psychological Science, 20, 1296–1300. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02442.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Logan, G. D., & Crump, M. J. C. (2011). Hierarchical control of cognitive processes: The case for skilled typewriting. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 54, pp. 1–27). Burlington: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Logan, G. D., & Zbrodoff, N. J. (1998). Stroop type interference: Congruity effects in color naming with typewritten responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 978–992. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.24.3.978 Google Scholar
  20. Long, J. (1976). Visual feedback and skilled keying: Differential effects of masking the printed copy and the keyboard. Ergonomics, 19, 93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Murdock, B. B., Jr. (1962). The serial position effect of free recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 482–488. doi: 10.1037/h0045106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nickerson, R. S., & Adams, M. J. (1979). Long-term memory for a common object. Cognitive Psychology, 11, 287–307. doi: 10.1016/0010-0285(79)90013-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rabbitt, P. (1978). Detection of errors by skilled typists. Ergonomics, 21, 945–958. doi: 10.1080/00140137808931800 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Shaffer, L. H. (1976). Intention and performance. Psychological Review, 83, 375–393. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.83.5.375 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Snyder, K. M., & Logan, G. D. (2013). Monitoring-induced disruption in skilled typewriting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. doi: 10.1037/a0031007
  26. Sternberg, S., Knoll, R. L., & Turock, D. L. (1990). Hierarchical control in the execution of action sequences: Tests of two invariance principles. In M. Jeannerod (Ed.), Attention and performance XIII: Motor representation and control (pp. 3–55). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  27. Tapp, K. M., & Logan, G. D. (2011). Attention to the hands disrupts skilled typewriting: The role of vision in producing the disruption. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73, 2379–2383. doi: 10.3758/s13414-011-0208-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Underwood, B. J. (1957). Interference and forgetting. Psychological Review, 64, 49–60. doi: 10.1037/h0044616 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vallacher, R. R., & Wegner, D. M. (1987). What do people think they’re doing? Action identification and human behavior. Psychological Review, 94, 3–15. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.94.1.3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vendetti, M., Castel, A. D., & Holyoak, K. J. (2013). The floor effect: Impoverished spatial memory for elevator buttons. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 75, 636–643. doi: 10.3758/s13414-013-0448-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wixted, J. T. (2004). The psychology and neuroscience of forgetting. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 235–269. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141555 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristy M. Snyder
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Yuki Ashitaka
    • 2
  • Hiroyuki Shimada
    • 2
  • Jana E. Ulrich
    • 1
  • Gordon D. Logan
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Kobe UniversityHyogoJapan
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations