How Is Attitude Change in Web Search Influenced by Users’ Informedness?

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Search engines are used to gather and collect information. This interaction sometimes influences the user and changes their attitude towards a topic after such interaction. Prior work has shown that it is a complex endeavour to understand attitude change, as there are many things that can influence a user during a search session. One of the aspects that have not been researched is the influence of informedness. Therefore we examine the role of informedness in attitude change. To do that, we first defined what a well-informed user in the context of web search is. Then a user study is conducted to understand informedness’s role in attitude change. From the platform Prolific, we recruited participants (N=320) for the main user study. The experiment is a 3 x 3 (Informedness level x SERP viewpoint bias) factorial between-subjects study and it requires interaction with the provided search results. The participants were placed in one of three categories, ”Well Informed”, ”Mildly Informed”, and ”Uninformed”, based on their results on a knowledge questionnaire. We created 3 different conditions for the search engine results page (SERP). The SERP had a viewpoint-biased ranking that was either supportive, opposing or balanced towards the topic. There were two topics, abortion and obesity, to which the participants were assigned. Our findings showed that 37% of the participants with a valid submission had changed attitudes. The findings from the user study suggest that the level of informedness does not play a role in facilitating attitude change among users during a web search. This has implications for the design of information retrieval systems and web search experiences in general.