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Rational analyses of information foraging on the Web


This article describes rational analyses and cognitive models of Web users developed within information foraging theory. This is done by following the rational analysis methodology of (a) characterizing the problems posed by the environment, (b) developing rational analyses of behavioral solutions to those problems, and (c) developing cognitive models that approach the realization of those solutions. Navigation choice is modeled as a random utility model that uses spreading activation mechanisms that link proximal cues (information scent) that occur in Web browsers to internal user goals. Web-site leaving is modeled as an ongoing assessment by the Web user of the expected benefits of continuing at a Web site as opposed to going elsewhere. These cost-benefit assessments are also based on spreading activation models of information scent. Evaluations include a computational model of Web user behavior called Scent-Based Navigation and Information Foraging in the ACT Architecture, and the Law of Surfing, which characterizes the empirical distribution of the length of paths of visitors at a Web site.


Pirolli, P. L. Rational analyses of information foraging on the Web. Cognitive Science. 2005 May; 29 (3): 343-373.