Is My Effort Worth It? Investigating the Dual Effects of Search Cost on Search Utility

Fei Liu, Bo Xiao, Eric T. K. Lim, Chee-Wee Tan

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    Inefficiencies associated with online information search are becoming increasingly prevalent in digital environments due to a surge in Consumer Generated Content (CGC). Despite growing scholarly interest in investigating information search behavior and practical demands to optimize users’ search experience, there is a paucity of studies that investigate the impact of search features on search outcomes. We therefore draw on Information Foraging Theory (IFT) to disentangle the dual role of search cost in shaping the utility of information search. We also extend the Information Seeking Model by advancing a typology of information search tactics, each incurring distinctive search cost. Furthermore, two types of search tasks were adapted from prior research to explore how search tactics differ between goal-oriented and exploratory conditions. Our hypotheses were validated via an online experiment in which Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) participants were recruited and tasked to perform search tasks on custom-made online review websites. By analyzing the behavioral data generated in the experimental process, we discover that search cost reduces the expected search utility while improving the yield of search space. Moreover, certain search tactics demand more effort from exploratory searchers, which in turn undermine their search utility.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPACIS 2016 Proceedings
    EditorsPatrick Y.K. Chau, She-I Chang
    Number of pages16
    Place of PublicationAtlanta, GA
    PublisherAssociation for Information Systems. AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
    Publication date2016
    Article number113
    ISBN (Print)9789860491029
    ISBN (Electronic)9789860491029
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventThe 20th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems. PACIS 2016 - Chiayi, Taiwan, Province of China
    Duration: 27 Jun 20161 Jul 2016
    Conference number: 20


    ConferenceThe 20th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems. PACIS 2016
    Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China
    Internet address


    • Information foraging theory
    • Online information search
    • Search tactics
    • Search Tasks
    • Search cost
    • Search utility

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