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Cognition in structured electronic environments


The goal of this project is to explore a class of cognitive capabilities -related to information retrieval in the World Wide Web - as a prominent case of skills that rely on simple decision-making strategies tailored to environmental regularities. The rationale behind such a project is twofold. On the one hand, recent literature on information retrieval on the Web has failed to acknowledge the genuinely cognitive nature of these capacities. It seems, though, that the study of information retrieval skills could provide fundamental insights into some of the basic principles involved in perception, reasoning and problem-solving under limited knowledge. On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that subjects do exploit a number of distributional regularities in the Web structure in order to solve problems - like relevance and authority assessment - raised by information retrieval tasks. The existence of robust environmental regularities and their recruitability in simple heuristics makes this case study an i deal area of application for a method of inquiry similar to the one developed in the ecological rationality framework.
This project will be articulated in three steps: first, the characterization of the salient environmental regularities in the structure o f the World Wide Web that bear an informational value for subjects; second, the individuation of relevant cues compatible with the Web structure and with subjects and apos; cognitive resources; third, the study of different decision strategies based on the se cues to solve specific problems in information retrieval tasks. The expected outcome of this project is to provide a theoretical framework for orienting further research on information-retrieval skills as a cognitive phenomenon and to give a robust scientific foundation to applied research in this domain.

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