How curiosity and uncertainty shape children’s information seeking behaviors

Published date19 September 2016
Date19 September 2016
AuthorKo-Chiu Wu,Hung-Chun Chen
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information user studies,Metadata,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
How curiosity and uncertainty
shape childrens information
seeking behaviors
Ko-Chiu Wu and Hung-Chun Chen
Department of Interaction Design,
National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei City, Taiwan
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore whether children adopt a survey or a route
approach when seeking information in a virtual world (VW), and whether their approach differs
depending on whether they are experiencing positive or negative motivation. Different models were
used based on disparate spatial recognition and conceptual abilities.
Design/methodology/approach In total, 127 children operated a three-dimensional VW
interface then they filled out a questionnaire. Structural equation modeling was employed to analyze
weighted relationships among latent variables. Motivation (positive vs negative), information-seeking
model (heuristic survey or detailed route) and the spatial markers, and complexity of patterns of
the VW were examined.
Findings The authors discovered that a highly motivated child tends to take a central route in the
process of information seeking, whereas a child experiencing negative emotions and uncertainty
prefers a survey approach using spatial markers to obtain information. In short, the type of motivation
influences whether children adopt a heuristic or detailed perspective when searching for information
on virtual interfaces.
Originality/value It is believed that users combine perceptual activities (low-level cognition) with
conceptual activities (high-level cognition) in order to save energy. Yet this study is the first to
investigate the conditions under which children are prone to utilize spatial markers (based on visual
working memory) or the sequencing of patterns (based on verbal working memory) to find information
in a heuristic or detailed fashion. This study provides a fresh perspective regarding perceptual and
conceptual integration for information visualization technology.
Keywords Virtual worlds, Information visualization, Children information seeking,
Information space, Search user interfaces, Way finding
Paper type Research paper
Children are generally eager to seek fun. As Bilal (2005, p. 204) noted, In the childre ns
eye the visual design of a successful portal is one with a fun name.Beheshti (2012)
alluded to the significance of the visualization tools that are introduced in search user
interfaces. Virtual worlds (VW) can be defined as computer-simulated interactive
environments where users may participate (interact) through their avatars, whether for
work or play, in a manner comparable to the real world (Messinger et al., 2009;
Yang and Yuen, 2012; Cudworth, 2014). Many researchers are engaged in studying how
children use VW technologies to learn about natural science (Wrzesien and Raya, 2010),
injury prevention (Schwebel et al., 2008; Coles et al., 2007), and education regarding
emotions of shame that children may face in their virtual or real relationships with
others (Rooney, 2015). We pose that the use of information visualization technology Library Hi Tech
Vol. 34 No. 3, 2016
pp. 549-564
©Emerald Group Publis hing Limited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-11-2015-0110
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The authors would like to thank the National Science Council of the Republic of China, Taiwan
for financially supporting this research under Contract No. NSC 101-2410-H-027-014.
(in VW) might encourage children to analyze the framework of the database at hand
and thus formulate operating strategies in the process of information seeking. Wu and
Chen (2016) affirmed that when children are operating a two-dimensional (2D)- or three-
dimensional (3D) interface, they either adopt an exhaustiveor focussedapproach
when in search of information, depending on their cognitive load.
According to Petty et al. (1983), the elaboration-likelihood model (ELM) acts as a
theory of persuasion, and can be used to illustrate how consumers either choose the
central path and make a detailed diagnosis, or take a peripheralroute to first get a rough
impression of the information imbedded in the advertisement they are watching.
The route they choose usually depends on how interested they are or what level of
involvement they prefer. This theory reveals that preferred searching behaviors are
related to the motivations of the participant. In other words, they use differentstrategies
with higher or lower cognitive loads when dealing with message management.
This explains why children choose different searching strategies depending on
whether they have stronger or weaker motivation (curiosity vs a sense of uncertainty
that curbs the urge to explore) for operating a 3D interface. They either employ a
central route to exhaustively ferret out information, or resort to a survey method to
scan thematic information. Information visualization technology is expected to develop
interfaces that better suit the various types of childrens information-seeking behavior.
Literature review
Uncertainty and curiosity
Brashers and Hogan (2013) explained that those seeking medical information often feel
a sense of uncertainty and want to take control over it. Uncertainty does not necessarily
lead to anxiety; rather, a sense of ambiguity helps one stay positive and hopeful. When
it comes to information seeking, uncertainty is caused by multi-dimensional, dynamic
user experiences. Chowdhury et al. (2011) examined the way scholars seek information
and make retrievals in an academic environment, discovering a non-linear, complicated
relationship between uncertainty and the process of message seeking. They suggested
that further exploration be made into the influence that positive and negative
uncertainty (NU) exert on the information seeking and retrieval process.
Reynolds and Symons (2001) examined the process applied to text searches, such as
that used when looking for a desired book. Theystressed that children are influencedby
both motivation and prior knowledge for the duration of information-seeking behavior.
Jirout and Klahr (2012) attempted to construct an operating framework grounded in
Loewensteins (1994) information gaptheory of curiosityto explain childrens curiosity
and exploratory behavior. For preschoolers, they defined curiosity as the threshold of
desired uncertainty in the environment that leads to exploratory behavior(Jirout and
Klahr, 2012, p. 125). The current study posits that the positive emotions aroused by
curiosity and the negative emotions aroused by uncertainty both affect a childs
motivation for exploration when using an information visualization interface.
Interface representation and cognitive load
Hall and ODonnell (1996) compared how students obtained learning via knowledge
mapsand text,documenting their motivation, anxiety, and concentration in a
designated period of time. Results showed that the group that used knowledge maps
had higher recall, subjective concentration, and subjective motivation. Therefore Hall and
ODonnell concluded that the positive impact of knowledge maps applies to subjective

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