Information Need Awareness: an EEG study

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


A fundamental goal of Information Retrieval (IR) is to satisfy search/- ers’ information need (IN). Advances in neuroimaging technologies have allowed for interdisciplinary research to investigate the brain activity associated with the realisation of IN. While these studies have been informative, they were not able to capture the cognitive processes underlying the realisation of IN and the interplay between them with a high temporal resolution. This paper aims to investigate this research question by inferring the variability of brain activity based on the contrast of a state of IN with the two other (no-IN) scenarios. To do so, we employed Electroencephalography (EEG) and constructed an Event-Related Potentials (ERP) analysis of the brain signals captured while participants experiencing a realisation of IN. In particular, the brain signals of 24 healthy participants were captured while performing a Question-Answering (Q/A) Task. Our results show a link between the early stages of processing, corresponding to awareness and the late activity, meaning memory control mechanisms. Our fndings also show that participants exhibited early N1-P2 complex indexing awareness processes and indicate, thus, that the realisation of IN is manifested in the brain before it reaches the user’s consciousness. This research contributes novel insights into a better understanding of IN and informs the design of IR systems to better satisfy it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Apr 2022
EventSpecial Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) 2022 - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 11 Jul 202215 Jul 2022


ConferenceSpecial Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) 2022
Internet address


  • information need
  • information retrieval
  • Anomalous State of Knowledge (ASK)
  • memory errors
  • d Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Event-Related Potentials (ERP)


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