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Search Rather than Surf the Web

According to researchers, nearly 75 percent of all American adults use the Internet on a daily basis.

Surprisingly, the method in which they look for information appears to influence how individuals comprehend or identify with the facts discovered in the search process.

University of Missouri researchers found that readers were better able to understand, remember and emotionally respond to material found through “searching” compared to content found while “surfing.”

Currently, 50 percent of adults use the Web to find information via search engines, while 38 percent use it to pass the time.

“If, as these data suggest, the cognitive and emotional impact of online content is greatest when acquired by searching, then Web site sponsors might consider increasing their advertising on pages that tend to be accessed via search engines,” said Kevin Wise, assistant professor of strategic communication and co-director of the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects (PRIME) Lab at the University of Missouri.

In the study, the researchers examined how methods for acquiring news — searching for specific content versus surfing a news Web site — affected readers’ emotional responses while reading news stories.

They monitored participants’ heart rate, skin conductance and facial musculature to gauge their emotional responses to unpleasant news. The researchers found that unpleasant content triggered greater emotional responses when readers sought the information by searching rather than surfing.

In future studies, Wise will study the effects of acquiring pleasant content on readers’ emotional responses.

“How readers acquire messages online has ramifications for their cognitive and emotional response to those messages,” Wise said.

“Messages that meet readers’ existing informational needs elicit stronger emotional reactions.”

The researchers also found that information was better understood and remembered when individuals conducted specific searches for information.

In a previous study, Wise tested the effects of searching and surfing on readers’ responses to images and found similar results.

The study, “The Effect of Searching Versus Surfing on Cognitive and Emotional Responses to Online News,” was recently published in the Journal of Media Psychology.

Source: University of Missouri

Search Rather than Surf the Web

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Search Rather than Surf the Web. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/11/05/search-rather-than-surf-the-web/9357.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.