I've been searching everywhere I know of for research concerning the topics listed below, but have been unable to find anything. The best I can come up with is general literature on feedback. Specifically I am looking for research on the following subjects:

  1. The effects of feedback on an artifact given in-context of artifact versus out-of-context. A concrete example is feedback on a report; is it preferable to provide written feedback in the report margins (in-context) or in a separate document (out-of-context), and why/why not?

  2. Context switches in workflows and why they are bad/good in general.

  3. Related to 2: theory supporting integration of related workflows into a single computer, supported workflow. A concrete example is Microsoft Word which has a feature to edit images inside the application itself even though it is a word processor. Why is this preferable compared to e.g. editing the image in an external application and inserting it afterward? And is it (always)? Are there special cases where it may be counter-productive?

  4. Properties of effective feedback. Preferably supporting the theses that:

    4.1 feedback on a produced artifact is more effective if given early than late. This could be supported by arguments about memory and learning in general, e.g. that it's easier to remember what you did just now than a few hours ago, and thus also easier to comprehend feedback about what you did and the artifacts you produced in that time.

    4.2 feedback on an artifact is more effective when the receiver is in the same "environment" he was in when the artifact was produced. A counterexample would be to give feedback on a report written in Microsoft Word by copying the report onto a web page and writing the feedback there. In that case the environment where the feedback is read by the receiver (the webpage) is completely different from the one where the artifact was produced (Microsoft Word). This has negative effects on effectiveness (which and why?).

I imagine the literature would be within cognitive load theory, learning theory, user interface design, usability design etc, but any suggestions are very much appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice question! Welcome to cogsci.SE! There ought to be some useful ideas to offer you from cognitive scientific theory, but some parts of this question might be good to rephrase and repost over at User Experience SE too. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2014 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


Here are a few theories and sources I happen to know that relate to your questions:

  1. Contextual cues aid recall of context-dependent memories. Plenty of research exists on these topics. An easily digestible example may be found through PsychCentral (Nauert, 2009).
  2. We have another great question about context-switching here already that you might want to check out: https://cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/4993/4086
  3. Haven't got much to offer in response to this question beyond the suggestion that you see what they have to say about it over at the User Experience Stack Exchange.
  4. Theories to support your theses 4.1 and 4.2:
    1. This idea seems to relate to the primacy and recency effects in memory, which promote recall of first and last items in a list, respectively. Here's a graph from Wikipedia that combines these ideas into the serial position effect:
      (source: wikimedia.org)
    2. Haven't got more to add here beyond the link to the other question I mentioned in response 2. I hope you get some other, helpful responses here!


Nauert, R. (2009, December 14). How cues and context help memory. PsychCentral: Psychotherapy News. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/12/14/how-cues-and-context-help-memory/10159.html.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks so much Nick! Those look like very useful resources. However, I hope someone else will chime in with more concrete examples for (3) and (4), especially (4.2). I will probably repost at least (3) at UX.SE though, as you mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – johnrl
    Feb 17, 2014 at 21:27

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