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Revisiting Search Task Difficulty: Behavioral and Individual Difference Measures

Jacek Gwizdka

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Search task characteristics are recognized as important factors that affect search process and its outcomes. This research examines the relationships among operational measures of searcher's behavior, individual cognitive differences, subjective task difficulty and mental effort assed by dual-task performance. A web-based information study was conduced in a controlled experimental setting. Forty eight study participants performed six search tasks of varying type and structure. Subjective task difficulty was found to be influenced by the searcher's effort measured as the number of results pages and individual documents visited, the number of documents bookmarked as relevant, as well as by individual cognitive differences, and mental effort assessed by performance on the secondary-task. In contrast to previous studies, no strong effects of the user navigation graph structure were found.

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