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What skilled typists don’t know about the QWERTY keyboard

Abstract

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.

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Author note

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

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Correspondence to Kristy M. Snyder.

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Snyder, K.M., Ashitaka, Y., Shimada, H. et al. What skilled typists don’t know about the QWERTY keyboard. Atten Percept Psychophys 76, 162–171 (2014). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-013-0548-4

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Keywords

  • Automaticity
  • Cognitive control
  • Automaticity
  • Implicit/explicit memory