The impact of users’ verbal/imagery cognitive styles on their Web search behavior

Nadjla Hariri, Maryam Asadi, Yazdan Mansourian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effects of verbal-imagery cognitive styles of information searching behavior of users in using the Web.Design/methodology/approach– In all, 44 participants were recruited for this study. The participants’ cognitive styles were measured by using Riding's Cognitive Style Analysis test. Three search tasks were designed based on Kim's search task definitions. Moreover, an individual lab session was arranged and then participants’ memos were analyzed using content analysis.Findings– In all, 48 strategies in four categories of behaviors in searching the Web were identified. There were associations between users’ cognitive styles and their information searching behavior. The participants’ selection of the search initiation behaviors varied, so that imagers suffered from more varied initial behavior than verbalizers. The verbalizers tended to search in a narrow area, then broadening the area and following structured navigation and reading behavior to process information, while imagers tended to search in a general area, then narrowing down the search and adopting mixed navigational styles and mixed behaviors to process information. This study revealed that there was a difference in search performance of verbalizers and imagers descriptively, as verbalizers spent more time compared to imagers and imagers visited more nodes than verbalizers for the tasks completion. In addition, the task was an important variable influencing the search performance. Based on the key findings (search initiation behaviors, formulating search queries, navigational behaviors, information processing behaviors), a conceptual pattern of Web searching and cognitive styles is presented.Research limitations/implications– The study provides a new understanding of Web users’ information search behavior based on cognitive styles which contributes to the theoretical basis of Web search research. It also raises various questions within the context of user studiesOriginality/value– The paper adopted a mixed approach in the area of information searching on the Web. A valuable contribution lies in the methods developed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-423
Number of pages23
JournalAslib Journal of Information Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2014


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