Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Computer Science (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Computer Science


Charles Wallace


Among daily computer users who are proficient, some are flexible at accomplishing unfamiliar tasks on their own and others have difficulty. Software designers and evaluators involved with Human Computer Interaction (HCI) should account for any group of proficient daily users that are shown to stumble over unfamiliar tasks. We define "Just Enough" (JE) users as proficient daily computer users with predominantly extrinsic motivation style who know just enough to get what they want or need from the computer. We hypothesize that JE users have difficulty with unfamiliar computer tasks and skill transfer, whereas intrinsically motivated daily users accomplish unfamiliar tasks readily. Intrinsic motivation can be characterized by interest, enjoyment, and choice and extrinsic motivation is externally regulated.

In our study we identified users by motivation style and then did ethnographic observations. Our results confirm that JE users do have difficulty accomplishing unfamiliar tasks on their own but had fewer problems with near skill transfer. In contrast, intrinsically motivated users had no trouble with unfamiliar tasks nor with near skill transfer. This supports our assertion that JE users know enough to get routine tasks done and can transfer that knowledge, but become unproductive when faced with unfamiliar tasks.

This study combines quantitative and qualitative methods. We identified 66 daily users by motivation style using an inventory adapted from Deci and Ryan (Ryan and Deci 2000) and from Guay, Vallerand, and Blanchard (Guay et al. 2000). We used qualitative ethnographic methods with a think aloud protocol to observe nine extrinsic users and seven intrinsic users. Observation sessions had three customized phases where the researcher directed the participant to: 1) confirm the participant's proficiency; 2) test the participant accomplishing unfamiliar tasks; and 3) test transfer of existing skills to unfamiliar software.