Non-analytical reasoning is thought to play a key role in dermatology diagnosis. Considering its potential importance, surprisingly little work has been done to research whether similar identification processes can be supported in non-experts. We describe here a prototype diagnostic support software, which we have used to examine the ability of medical students (at the beginning and end of a dermatology attachment) and lay volunteers, to diagnose 12 images of common skin lesions. Overall, the non-experts using the software had a diagnostic accuracy of 98% (923/936) compared with 33% for the control group (215/648) (Wilcoxon p < 0.0001). We have demonstrated, within the constraints of a simplified clinical model, that novices' diagnostic scores are significantly increased by the use of a structured image database coupled with matching of index and referent images. The novices achieve this high degree of accuracy without any use of explicit definitions of likeness or rule-based strategies.