Information Processing and Technical Writing: The Importance of Optimizing Users’ Working Memory

Mélanie PIERRE, Amélie CARON, Coline MAGNIER, Margaux ZANINI

Paris Diderot University, July 15, 2021


The simpler the better, you have probably heard this sentence many times. It is  particularly true in technical writing. It has been proven that having more than seven chunks  of information or using useless information in a technical document can affect users working memory as well as an unstructured document. However, there is little research on the nature of the link between working memory and technical writing.
Our article examines the correlation between cognitive psychology and technical writing and more especially the importance of optimizing the user’s working memory when writing technical documents. To understand the impact of an altered procedure on the realization of a task, we conducted an experiment which consisted of a comparison between two drawing procedures: one which aimed at optimizing working memory and the other which aimed at altering it. Participants shared their drawings and told us the difficulties they faced for eachof the procedures.

Our research and the analysis of the conducted experiment allowed us to draw the conclusion that technical writers should always consider their user’s working memory to ensure that the instructions are easy to follow for every age and capacity range. The structure and content of documentations can help users to group information together and thus help improve their working memory while reading instructions.

Read the full article in PDF: Information processing and technical writing