Using a Modified Heuristic-Systematic Model to Characterize Information Seeking on the Internet
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Griffin, Robert J.
This study combines two major theories in communication research, Palmgreen and Rayburn's Expectancy-Value approach to media gratifications (1985) and Eagly and Chaiken's Heuristic-Systematic Model (1989), in order to identify the relationships between information seeking tendencies, channel beliefs about specific websites, and website usage for accurate information. Taking a page from schema theory (Rumelhart, 1980), it was expected that individuals who use the Internet frequently to find accurate information have a set of beliefs concerning what a "good" or "bad" website has on it. To this end, a study of 130 undergraduate college students was completed. The study had an added experimental manipulation which varied the domain extension and authority of the website given for the task. The analyses performed showed that when given a task of finding accurate information, a higher capacity to understand information predicted which characteristics of a website were highly valued and how likely a given website was to have those characteristics. This in turn predicted website usage. Furthermore, websites with official domain extensions (e.g., .gov) were considered more likely to have desirable characteristics, more likely to contain accurate information than websites with non-official domain extensions (e.g., .com), and were more likely to be used. The study also offers a model of how information seeking, domain extension, and channel beliefs lead to website use.