Emotions as motivators for information seeking: A conceptual analysis

This conceptual analysis (Reijo Savolainen) of how emotions and feelings are characterized as motivators for information seeking draws on the appraisal theories suggesting that emotions motivate individuals by triggering action readiness to approach or avoid sources of information. The findings indicate that emotions and feelings motivate in five major ways: they start, expand, limit, or terminate the information-seeking process, or they lead to information avoidance. Information scientists have mainly characterized the motivational aspects of negatively colored emotions such as anxiety and fear while the role of positive emotions such as joy has remained secondary.

Affective factors are important constituents of human motivation. The present study demonstrated that emotions and feelings can substantially encourage or discourage an individual's attempts to seek information. To further elaborate the picture of the motivational role of the affective factors, both conceptual research and empirical research are needed. Conceptual analysis could focus on the potential of existing models of information seeking and searching. For example, the comparison of Kuhlthau's ISP model and Nahl's social–biological information technology model may provide novel ideas about the ways in which affective factors trigger and drive information seeking. Another important topic for the application of conceptual studies is the relationship between cognitive and affective factors, since both Kuhlthau and Nahl have pioneered in this field. To deepen the conceptual picture, there is also a need to consider the motivational nature of affective phenomena of other types by including mood and affective style, for example. For these studies, ideas obtained from other fields such as personality psychology (e.g.,Heinström, 2010) would be particularly important. Further, the picture of the role of emotions and feelings may be elaborated by drawing on the theories of emotions, for example, appraisal theories (Moors et al., 2013).

Second, it is important to conduct empirical investigations examining the motivational roles of the affective factors in information seeking and use, both in work-related and leisure contexts. Studies such as these may shed additional light on the issues of satisficing, for example (Prabha et al., 2007). Finally, since the affective phenomena tend to be intertwined with cognitive and situational factors, the picture of the motivational aspects of emotions, feelings, mood and affective styles can be deepened by looking at these factors together rather than separately. The elaboration of the affective factors matters because the research findings can further our understanding about why people in certain situations are willing to start, expand or terminate information seeking and why they sometimes choose not to access information even if it is available.