Information discernment and online reading behaviour: An experiment

Matthew Pointon, Geoff Walton, Jamie Barker, Michael Lackenby, Martin Turner, Andrew Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose. To explore the relationship between participants’ eye fixations (a measure of attention) and durations (a measure of concentration) on Areas of Interest within a range of online articles and their levels of information discernment (a sub-process of information literacy characterising how participants make judgements about information).
Methodology. Eye-tracking equipment was used as a proxy measure for reading behaviour by recording eye-fixations, dwell times and regressions in males aged 18-24 (n=48). Participants’ level of information discernment was determined using a quantitative questionnaire.
Findings. Data indicates a relationship between participants’ level of information
discernment and their viewing behaviours within the articles’ Area of Interest. Those who scored highly on an information discernment questionnaire tended to interrogate the online article in a structured and linear way. Those with high-level information discernment are more likely to pay attention to textual and graphical information than those exhibiting low level information discernment. Conversely, participants with low-level information discernment indicated a lack of curiosity by not interrogating all of the article. They were unsystematic in their saccadic movements spending significantly longer viewing irrelevant areas.
Social implications. The most profound consequence is that those with low-level information discernment, through a lack of curiosity in particular, could base health, workplace, political or everyday decisions on sub-optimal engagement with, and comprehension of information or misinformation (such as fake news).
Originality/value. Ground-breaking analysis of the relationship between a persons’ self reported level of information literacy (information discernment specifically) and objective measures of reading behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOnline Information Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 May 2022

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