Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Volume 5 Issue 2 (March/April 1991), Pages fmi-fmi, 87-172

On‐line consultation of definitions and examples: Implications for the design of interactive dictionaries (pages 149-166)


The paper discusses how dictionary consultation during text comprehension varies according to dictionary users' prior knowledge of a word and of the concept it represents. Four types of consultation are isolated: the construction, extension, confirmation, and recognition of word meaning. Two experiments (one using an interactive electronic dictionary and the second a pencil‐and‐paper task) show that people's use of definitions and examples varies with type of consultation. The findings suggest that dictionary entries giving definitions as the primary source of information are appropriate for construction, extension, and confirmation tasks but that examples should be the primary information for recognition tasks. The implications of the findings for the design of interactive dictionaries are discussed.

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