Task and user effects on reading patterns in information search

Michael J. Cole, Jacek Gwizdka, Chang Liu, Ralf Bierig, Nicholas J. Belkin, Xiangmin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We report on an investigation into people's behaviors on information search tasks, specifically the relation between eye movement patterns and task characteristics. We conducted two independent user studies (n = 32 and n = 40), one with journalism tasks and the other with genomics tasks. The tasks were constructed to represent information needs of these two different users groups and to vary in several dimensions according to a task classification scheme. For each participant we classified eye gaze data to construct models of their reading patterns. The reading models were analyzed with respect to the effect of task types and Web page types on reading eye movement patterns. We report on relationships between tasks and individual reading behaviors at the task and page level. Specifically we show that transitions between scanning and reading behavior in eye movement patterns and the amount of text processed may be an implicit indicator of the current task type facets. This may be useful in building user and task models that can be useful in personalization of information systems and so address design demands driven by increasingly complex user actions with information systems. One of the contributions of this research is a new methodology to model information search behavior and investigate information acquisition and cognitive processing in interactive information tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-362
Number of pages17
JournalInteracting with Computers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction


  • Cognitive task
  • Eye movements
  • Information search
  • Interactive information retrieval
  • Reading models
  • User models

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