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The power of social cues in the battle for attention: Evidence from an online platform for scholarly commentary

Ho Fai Chan (), Sohel Md Bodiuzzman and Benno Torgler

Journal of Informetrics, 2020, vol. 14, issue 4

Abstract: Because humans have limited resources and capacities to digest and comprehend the unprecedented amount of information bombarding today’s world, human attention is a scarce resource and the problem of information overload is becoming increasingly serious. In this study we aim to contribute to an understanding of how humans make decisions about the value of complex sources of information, specifically in the context of online scholarly platforms, online news, and social media. We thus use almost 5000 research-based VoxEU texts, together with the corresponding authors’ characteristics, to test whether, as an evolutionary approach would suggest, author success, skills, and prestige serve as strong cues in readers’ attentional decisions, by analyzing reading, sharing, and searching behaviors. In addition to finding strong support for this assumption, we also show that readers respond to such visual cues as article title, number of words in the abstract, and/or text content, with a clear favoring of figures over tables.

Keywords: Attention; Information overload; Heuristics; Prestige; Readership (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D91 O33 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.joi.2020.101077

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