Doctors' online information needs, cognitive search strategies, and judgments of information quality and cognitive authority: How predictive judgments introduce bias into cognitive search models



Literature examining information judgments and Internet search behaviors notes a number of major research gaps, including how users actually make these judgments outside of experiments or researcher-defined tasks, and how search behavior is impacted by a user's judgment of online information. Using the medical setting, where doctors face real consequences in applying the information found, we examine how information judgments employed by doctors to mitigate risk impact their cognitive search. Diaries encompassing 444 real clinical information search incidents, combined with semistructured interviews across 35 doctors, were analyzed via thematic analysis. Results show that doctors, though aware of the need for information quality and cognitive authority, rarely make evaluative judgments. This is explained by navigational bias in information searches and via predictive judgments that favor known sites where doctors perceive levels of information quality and cognitive authority. Doctors' mental models of the Internet sites and Web experience relevant to the task type enable these predictive judgments. These results suggest a model connecting online cognitive search and information judgment literatures. Moreover, this implies a need to understand cognitive search through longitudinal- or learning-based views for repeated search tasks, and adaptations to medical practitioner training and tools for online search.