PhD Dissertation by Roberto I. González-Ibáñez: “A Study of Positive and Negative Affective States in Collaborative Information Seeking” (Defended in Sept. 2013 at Rutgers University; Supervised by Chirag Shah)
Emotions and other affective processes have long been considered essential elements in people’s lives. Whether during intimacy or in social contexts, human beings experience a wide spectrum of emotions every day, all the time. Despite emotion research conducted in various domains, little is known about the role of affects, emotions, feelings, and mood in the information search process, especially when this is carried out by teams. In this regard, this dissertation aimed to understand whether the affective dimension plays a role in collaborative information seeking (CIS) through four research objectives: (1) study how initial affective conditions influence information practices; (2) investigate what affective processes are typically expressed and experienced in information search; (3) examine how initial affective conditions and those derived from social interactions during the collaboration process influence team performance; and (4) study positivity ratio in collaborative search and their relation to team performance. To accomplish these research objectives, a controlled lab study with 135 participants distributed in fixed experimental conditions and a control group was conducted. In each experimental condition, participants were individually treated with affective stimuli in order to elicit positive and negative affective states.
Results from this study suggest that initial affective states may define and/or shape information processing strategies. Additionally, in collaborative settings, it was found that the interplay of similar or different affective processes could change the way searchers interact with each other, their frustration levels, affective load, and the quality of their work. This dissertation and the findings presented have theoretical implications in the study of collaborative and individual information seeking. Specifically, it gives the affective dimension a central role that could define the way people search, evaluate, and make sense of information. In terms of practical implications, if affective processes play such a key role in information seeking, this may redefine the design of information system by incorporating the ability to identify searchers’ initial affective states and provide the necessary resources to support their information processing strategies. Finally, this dissertation also contributes with a research framework and a methodological approach to carry out experimental evaluations to investigate the role of the affective dimension in both collaborative and individual information seeking.