Creating Order: The Role of Heuristics in Website Selection

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Heuristics, or mental shortcuts, can be efficient tools for decision making; however, they can also lead to biases. This study examines how undergraduate students might use heuristics when evaluating websites retrieved from a Google search. Student participants were asked to review a Google search for “genetically modified food” and select the websites they would likely use for an academic project. The Google search was presented in either the original or reversed order. After indicating initial preferences, students reviewed screen shots of six preselected websites from the Google search and rated each on various content attributes, after which they were asked whether they would use each for their research. The order in which participants saw the results affected their initial choices. Participants were more likely to choose the results near the top of the list. Once students evaluated websites on content attributes, the order effects diminished, but were still detectable. When asked to evaluate the websites, students demonstrated an understanding of what to look for and rated them effectively based on their content.

Original Citation

Spievak, E.R. & Hayes-Bohanan, P. (2016). Creating Order: The Role of Heuristics in Website Selection. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 21(1/2), 23-46. doi: 10.1080/10875301.2016.1149541