The role of individual differences in Internet searching: An empirical study



This article reports the results of a study of the role of individual differences in Internet searching. The dimensions of individual differences forming the focus of the research consisted of: cognitive styles; levels of prior experience; Internet perceptions; study approaches; age; and gender. Sixty-nine Masters students searched for information on a prescribed topic using the AltaVista search engine. Results were assessed using simple binary relevance judgements. Factor analysis and multiple regression revealed interesting differences, retrieval effectiveness being linked to: male gender; low cognitive complexity; an imager (as opposed to verbalizer) cognitive style; and a number of Internet perceptions and study approaches grouped here as indicating low self-efficacy. The implications of these findings for system development and for future research are discussed.