To read this content please select one of the options below:

Toward a unified model of human information behavior: an equilibrium perspective

Jiqun Liu (Department of Library and Information Science, School of Communication and Information, Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to build a unified model of human information behavior (HIB) for integrating classical constructs and reformulating the structure of HIB theory.


This paper employs equilibrium perspective from partial equilibrium theory to conceptualization and deduction, starting from four basic assumptions.


This paper develops two models to incorporate previous HIB research approaches into an equilibrium-analysis-oriented information supply-demand (ISD) framework: first, the immediate-task/problem-based and everyday life information-seeking (ELIS)-sense-making approaches are incorporated into the short-term ISD model; second, the knowledge-construction-oriented and ability-based HIB research approaches are elaborated by the long-term ISD model. Relations among HIB theories are illustrated via the method of graphical reasoning. Moreover, these two models jointly reveal the connection between information seeking in immediate problematic situations and long-term ability improvement.


The equilibrium framework enables future research to explore HIB from three perspectives: stages: group the classical concepts (e.g. anomalous state of knowledge, uncertainty) into different stages (i.e. start state, process, goal state) and see how they interact with each other within and across different stages; forces: explore information behaviors and information-related abilities as information supply and demand forces, and see how different forces influence each other and jointly motivate people to pursue the equilibriums between outside world and mental model; and short term and long term: study the connections between short-term information seeking and long-term ability improvement at both theoretical and empirical levels.



The author would like to thank the two anonymous referees of this paper for pointing to overlooked literature and for their insightful comments which helped to improve the manuscript significantly.


Liu, J. (2017), "Toward a unified model of human information behavior: an equilibrium perspective", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 73 No. 4, pp. 666-688.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles