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Information discernment and online reading behaviour: an experiment

Matthew Pointon (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Northumbria University–City Campus, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK)
Geoff Walton (Department of Languages, Information and Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Martin Turner (Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Michael Lackenby (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK)
Jamie Barker (School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Andrew Wilkinson (School of Health, Science and Wellbeing, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 5 August 2022

Issue publication date: 9 May 2023




This paper intends to explore the relationship between participants' eye fixations (a measure of attention) and durations (a measure of concentration) on areas of interest within a range of online articles and their levels of information discernment (a sub-process of information literacy characterising how participants make judgements about information).


Eye-tracking equipment was used as a proxy measure for reading behaviour by recording eye-fixations, dwell times and regressions in males aged 18–24 (n = 48). Participants' level of information discernment was determined using a quantitative questionnaire.


Data indicates a relationship between participants' level of information discernment and their viewing behaviours within the articles' area of interest. Those who score highly on an information discernment questionnaire tended to interrogate the online article in a structured and linear way. Those with high-level information discernment are more likely to pay attention to an article's textual and graphical information than those exhibiting low-level information discernment. Conversely, participants with low-level information discernment indicated a lack of curiosity by not interrogating the entire article. They were unsystematic in their saccadic movements spending significantly longer viewing irrelevant areas.

Social implications

The most profound consequence is that those with low-level information discernment, through a lack of curiosity in particular, could base their health, workplace, political or everyday decisions on sub-optimal engagement with and comprehension of information or misinformation (such as fake news).


Ground-breaking analysis of the relationship between a persons' self-reported level of information literacy (information discernment specifically) and objective measures of reading behaviour.



The authors acknowledge the funding support by Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) – Information Literacy Group (ILG).


Pointon, M., Walton, G., Turner, M., Lackenby, M., Barker, J. and Wilkinson, A. (2023), "Information discernment and online reading behaviour: an experiment", Online Information Review, Vol. 47 No. 3, pp. 522-549.



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