Drs. Glenn Browne, Eric Walden and Others Investigate Online Information Search Criteria
December 14, 2012
People constantly search for information to help them solve problems and make decisions, and researchers at the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University have been investigating this issue and have unearthed fascinating insights about how and why people stop their information search.
Several years ago, Dr. Glenn J. Browne, Professor of Information Systems at the Rawls College, and his colleagues found that people use a small number of cognitive stopping rules that help guide them in deciding to stop information search. These stopping rules are rules-of-thumb such as checking items on a mental list, stopping when one is not learning anything new, and stopping when a subjectively-determined sufficiency of information has been obtained.
Now, Dr. Browne, Dr. Eric A. Walden of the Rawls College, and Dr. Michael O'Boyle of the College of Human Sciences are extending the previous findings by scanning people's brains as they search and stop, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Findings thus far indicate that different parts of the brain are used when searching and stopping, findings that can inform people working in disciplines as diverse as decision making, incentives and motivation, marketing, website design, and learning and child development.
"Texas Tech recently acquired an MRI scanner for scientific research," Dr. Walden notes. "Using this new technology allows us to look inside people's brains while they think. It has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of minds in the same way that telescopes revolutionized our understanding of the universe."
"We believe this research is particularly noteworthy because Eric, Michael, and I are the only scientists studying this particular problem using fMRI techniques," Dr. Browne says. "Since different parts of the brain seem to be used in searching and stopping, we believe we've uncovered an important aspect of basic human cognition that is involved in the constant scanning of the environment and stopping that occurs in everyone's behavior."
The research being performed by Drs. Browne, Walden, and O'Boyle is fundamental to human behavior. Many companies, such as Google, now help filter information at a macro level, but Google does not help us understand how individual people stop their information search. The research being performed by Drs. Browne, Walden, and O'Boyle is intended to fill this gap in scientific knowledge.