Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration


Management Information Systems

Committee Member

Andrew Olney

Committee Member

Jong Lee


Searching for information related to news, entertainment, products, destinations, or other varieties of information is a core activity in online environments. This two-essay dissertation examines the information search process in online environments, focusing on how information cues (e.g., images and rank order) in search result pages influence users’ evaluation and selection behavior. The first essay investigates the strength of images as information cues within ordered sets and how they affect the evaluation and selection behaviors of consumers. Essay two studies how humans in images during information search influence users’ evaluation and selection behaviors. Both essays contribute to existing literature by expanding our understanding of how image information cues affect online search behavior. The first study looks at the role images play in online consumer search as an information cue contained in ordered sets common in search result pages. To investigate this question, a lab experiment is conducted using eye-tracking measures to assess the level of cognitive processing a person exhibits on images. Our findings confirm prior literature showing that image rank order is significant in drawing consumer attention. More importantly, our findings show that both image relevancy and image rank order significantly influence product link selection. Additionally, the level of cognitive evaluation of the image positively moderates the impact of image relevancy on selection. Our research results add clarity concerning the importance of images in online search and serves as the beginning of a research stream investigating the effects of other information cues (e.g., text) on search. For practitioners, we anticipate our findings will provide useful insight for website designers on the use of relevant images in search result pages. The use of humans in images has also become a pervasive information cue in result pages on video search sites and has been considered an appealing trait providing guidance to positive search outcomes. However, we propose that when searching for videos online, images with humans can be either a distraction or a benefit depending upon the type of information one is seeking. Expanding on the first essay, the second study examines the effect that humans depicted in images has on people’s evaluation and selection behaviors during search. Anchored on information foraging theory, this study utilizes an experimental approach to assess people’s preferences toward the use of humans in images during search. The findings indicate that when people seek information related to facts, features, or characteristics of a product, including humans in images can deter people from selecting associated videos. In comparison, in tasks where people are seeking information on how to do a task, humans in images have no significant effect. Additionally, our findings suggest that people’s preference for social presence can positively moderate the impact of humans in images, improving the likelihood that the associated links will be selected when humans are present in images. These two studies add to the current body of knowledge by uncovering aspects of the process of search and how images influence online search behavior. We not only explain how individuals make use of images as a relevant information cue but also investigate the interaction between an individual’s preference toward social presence and the influence of humans in images in online search. Furthermore, we highlight the need to take into consideration the type of search being conducted along with people’s personal preferences when providing images as information cues. In practice, this research can aid web designers in two ways. First, it can provide insights on how information cues in presentations can alter search behavior. Secondly, it highlights the criticality of image relevancy, the use of humans in images, and how these characteristics affect users’ evaluation of search results and link selection.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.