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A systematic integrative review of cognitive biases in consumer health information seeking: emerging perspective of behavioral information research

Tsangyao Chen (Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 28 December 2020

Issue publication date: 8 April 2021




With the growing interest in behavioral health and medical decision-making, this systematic integrative review aims to understand research on cognitive biases in the context of consumer health information seeking and where future research opportunities may reside.


Following a systematic review protocol, 40 empirical research articles, out of 1,127 journal research papers from 12 academic databases, from 1995 to 2019, are included for review.


The study of cognitive biases in consumer health information seeking is a nascent and fast-growing phenomenon, with variety in publication venues and research methods. Among the 16 biases investigated, optimistic bias and confirmation bias have attracted most attention (46.9%). Researchers are most interested in specific disease/illness (35%) and the health factors of consumer products (17.5%). For theoretical presence, about one-third of the reviewed articles have cited behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, although most of the references are the early works of Kahneman.

Research limitations/implications

As an emerging research area, there exists plenty of cognitive biases to be investigated in the context of health information seeking. In the meantime, the adoption of more recent theoretical insights such as nudge for debiasing may enrich this research area. Health communication scientists may find incorporating the behavioral decision research framework enriches the disciplinary inquiry of health information seeking, while information scientists could use it to commence the cognitive turn of information science evolution.


Through evidence-based understanding, this review shows the potential research directions that health communication scientists and information scientists could contribute to optimize health decisions through the adoption of behavioral decision research framework.



The author would like to thank Dr. Melissa Gross, professor at Florida State University, for her ongoing support throughout the preparation of this article and the project behind.


Chen, T. (2021), "A systematic integrative review of cognitive biases in consumer health information seeking: emerging perspective of behavioral information research", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 3, pp. 798-823.



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