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Measuring the Affective Information Environment of Web Searchers

Diane Nahl,

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


Information seeking research and theory is focusing increasingly on the role of affect in information behavior and how it influences cognitive operations. Affective variables that have been explored include need, preference, attitude, task motivation, expected and felt effort, uncertainty, self-efficacy, optimism, relevance, satisfaction, and acceptance of or loyalty to the system. This study gives operational definitions for measuring several affective variables in the form of rating scales filled out by college students at the beginning and end of weekly Web search sessions throughout a semester. Intercorrelations and ANOVA analyses showed that there is a dynamic and coherent interaction among these affective variables. It is shown that the affective environment of searchers can be monitored objectively and continuously by means of such measures. A new concept termed “affective load” is introduced and defined, along with “user coping skills” which can counteract and reduce the negative effects of uncertainty, frustration, irritation and rage during searching.

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