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The influence of positive hypothesis testing on youths’ online health-related information seeking

Beth St. Jean (College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Mega Subramaniam (College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Natalie Greene Taylor (College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Rebecca Follman (College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Christie Kodama (College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Dana Casciotti (U.S. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland, USA)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to investigate whether/how youths’ pre-existing beliefs regarding health-related topics influence their online searching behaviors, such as their selection of keywords and search results, their credibility assessments and the conclusions they draw and the uses they make (or do not make) of the information they find. More specifically, we sought to determine whether positive hypothesis testing occurs when youth search for health information online and to ascertain the potential impacts this phenomenon can have on their search behaviors, their ability to accurately answer health-related questions and their confidence in their answers.

Design/methodology/approach

An exploratory field experiment was conducted with participants in an after-school program (“HackHealth”), which aims to improve the health literacy skills and health-related self-efficacy of middle-school students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Findings

Evidence of positive hypothesis testing among the participants was found and important impacts on their search outcomes were observed.

Practical implications

The paper was concluded with suggestions for improving digital literacy instruction for youth so as to counteract the potentially negative influences of positive hypothesis testing.

Originality/value

This study extends existing research about positive hypothesis testing to investigate the existence and impact of this phenomenon within the context of tweens (ages 11-14) searching for health information online.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all of the school librarians and students with whom they worked in the hopes of improving the future overall health of the society. The authors would also like to thank the data manager extraordinaire, Faith Ambrosini. Special thanks to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for providing the funding that makes the HackHealth program possible. This paper is based upon work supported by the National Library of Medicine; however, any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Library of Medicine.

Citation

St. Jean, B., Subramaniam, M., Taylor, N.G., Follman, R., Kodama, C. and Casciotti, D. (2015), "The influence of positive hypothesis testing on youths’ online health-related information seeking", New Library World, Vol. 116 No. 3/4, pp. 136-154. https://doi.org/10.1108/NLW-07-2014-0084

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited