Understanding Information Need: an fMRI Study

Moshfeghi, Y., Triantafillou, P. and Pollick, F. E. (2016) Understanding Information Need: an fMRI Study. In: SIGIR 2016: 39th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieva, Pisa, Italy, 17-21 July 2016, pp. 335-344. ISBN 9781450340694 (doi: 10.1145/2911451.2911534)

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The raison d'etre of IR is to satisfy human information need. But, do we really understand information need? Despite advances in the past few decades in both the IR and relevant scientific communities, this question is largely unanswered. We do not really understand how an information need emerges and how it is physically manifested. Information need refers to a complex concept: at the very initial state of the phenomenon (i.e. at a visceral level), even the searcher may not be aware of its existence. This renders the measuring of this concept (using traditional behaviour studies) nearly impossible. In this paper, we investigate the connection between an information need and brain activity. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), we measured the brain activity of twenty four participants while they performed a Question Answering (Q/A) Task, where the questions were carefully selected and developed from TREC-8 and TREC 2001 Q/A Track. The results of this experiment revealed a distributed network of brain regions commonly associated with activities related to information need and retrieval and differing brain activity in processing scenarios when participants knew the answer to a given question and when they did not and needed to search. We believe our study and conclusions constitute an important step in unravelling the nature of information need and therefore better satisfying it.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pollick, Professor Frank and Triantafillou, Professor Peter and Moshfeghi, Dr Yashar
Authors: Moshfeghi, Y., Triantafillou, P., and Pollick, F. E.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
651921Urban Big Data Research CentrePiyushimita ThakuriahEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/L011921/1SPS - URBAN STUDIES