Drivers of information needs: a behavioural study

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The searcher's realisation of Information Need (IN) in Information Retrieval (IR) is triggered by a perception of the knowledge gap the searcher perceives. Introspective epistemic (knowledge) feelings are evoked, describing the state of the user's anomaly. For instance, Feeling-of-Knowing (FOK) refers to a state of a user’s temporary unavailability to recall the information in question. The role and the extent to which such epistemic feelings inform the user's cognitive context need further research. Our methodological design followed the Recall-Judgment-Recognition (RJR) paradigm, commonly used as a framework for memory tests. We collected behavioural data from twenty-four participants in a general knowledge Q/A user study to investigate the interplay of users' internal perceptions of knowing based on three metacognitive states (Recall). The results showed significant differences across different metacognitive states and subsequent memory retrieval performance (Recognition), leading to our conclusion of the accuracy of the metacognitive states of knowing. Specifically, we found that FOK was only a relatively accurate predictor of MR. The amount of failures of recognition connected to FOK, thus, suggests that the participants might have misattributed their positive FOK. Participants could not recognise the answer as they thought, giving rise to phenomena such as Illusion of Knowing. Furthermore, our data support the significant effect of task (question) difficulty on participants' metacognitive states. Based on the interactions between Recall and Recognition, our results contribute to the understanding of the graded nature of cognitive functions, supporting the user's cognitive context in information search and expanding such an area to the realm of contextual task difficulty.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2022
EventThe 8th ACM SIGIR International Conference on the Theory of Information Retrieval - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 11 Jul 202212 Jul 2022


ConferenceThe 8th ACM SIGIR International Conference on the Theory of Information Retrieval


  • information retreival
  • information search
  • information need
  • anomalous state of knowledge (ASK)
  • feeling of knowing
  • metamemory
  • illusion of knowing
  • task difficulty
  • question-answering


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