Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Individual differences in information-seeking. Nature communications Kelly, C. A., Sharot, T. 2021; 12 (1): 7062


    Vast amounts of personalized information are now available to individuals. A vital research challenge is to establish how people decide what information they wish to obtain. Here, over five studies examining information-seeking in different domains we show that information-seeking is associated with three diverse motives. Specifically, we find that participants assess whether information is useful in directing action, how it will make them feel, and whether it relates to concepts they think of often. We demonstrate that participants integrate these assessments into a calculation of the value of information that explains information seeking or its avoidance. Different individuals assign different weights to these three factors when seeking information. Using a longitudinal approach, we find that the relative weights assigned to these information-seeking motives within an individual show stability over time, and are related to mental health as assessed using a battery of psychopathology questionnaires.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-021-27046-5

    View details for PubMedID 34862360

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8642448

  • "How" web searches change under stress. Scientific reports Kelly, C. A., Blain, B., Sharot, T. 2024; 14 (1): 15147


    To adjust to stressful environments, people seek information. Here, we show that in response to stressful public and private events the high-level features of information people seek online alter, reflecting their motives for seeking knowledge. We first show that when people want information to guide action they selectively ask "How" questions. Next, we reveal that "How" searches submitted to Google increased dramatically during the pandemic (controlling for search volume). Strikingly, the proportion of these searches predicted weekly self-reported stress of ~17K individuals. To rule out third factors we manipulate stress and find that "How" searches increase in response to stressful, personal, events. The findings suggest that under stress people ask questions to guide action, and mental state is reflected in features that tap into why people seek information rather than the topics they search for. Tracking such features may provide clues regrading population stress levels.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-024-65895-4

    View details for PubMedID 38956247