Searching for Information in the Digital Age: Implications for Metacognition and Learning

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In the current digital age, people are increasingly relying on the internet as their primary source for looking up and learning new information. In 9 experiments, this dissertation seeks to understand how searching for information affects people’s metacognitive judgments and learning outcomes. First, we investigate how searching the internet for explanations impacts people’s confidence in their explanatory ability and the accuracy of their subsequent explanations. Second, we examine how looking up translations online affects people’s judgments of learning and their performance on a learning test. Third, we test how solving word searches influences people’s estimates of their knowledge of definitions. As people use cues to infer what they know, the effect of searching on metacognitive judgments depends on the cues that are available during searching. Specifically, searching inflates confidence in one’s knowledge when features in the search environment increase feelings of fluency (Ch. 2), but reduces confidence in one’s knowledge when searching produces feelings of disfluency (Ch. 3 & 4). Although searching involves active engagement, our results suggest that searching does not benefit learning (Ch. 2) and can even impair learning when it disrupts the encoding of to-be-learned information (Ch. 3). Overall, our findings suggest that it is not the act of searching itself but rather the cues that are available during searching that influence how people assess their own knowledge and how well they learn new information.





Eliseev, Emmaline Drew (2022). Searching for Information in the Digital Age: Implications for Metacognition and Learning. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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