Understanding feeling-of-knowing in information search: an EEG study

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The realisation and the variability of information needs (IN) with respect to a searcher’s gap in knowledge is driven by the perceived Anomalous State of Knowledge (ASK). The concept of Feeling-of-Knowing (FOK), as the introspective feeling of knowledge awareness, shares the characteristics of an ASK state. From an IR perspective, FOK as a premise to trigger IN is unexplored. Motivated by the neuroimaging studies in IR, we investigate the neurophysiological drivers associated with FOK, to provide evidence validating FOK as a distinctive state in IN realisation. We employ Electroencephalography to capture the brain activity of 24 healthy participants performing a textual Question Answering IR scenario. We analyse the evoked neural patterns corresponding to three states of knowledge: i.e., (1)“I know”, (2)“FOK”, (3)“I do not know”. Our findings show the distinct neurophysiological signatures (N1, P2, N400, P6) in response to information segments processed in the context of our three levels. They further reveal that the brain manifestation associated with “FOK” does not significantly differ from the ones associated with “I do not know”, indicating their association with recognition of a gap in knowledge and as such could further inform the IN formation on different levels of knowing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number79
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalACM Transactions on Information Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2024


  • information need
  • information retrieval
  • anomalous state of knowledge
  • IR
  • metamemory
  • metacognition
  • feeling-of-knowing
  • EEG
  • ERP


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