The Seven Deadly Tensions of Health-Related Human Information Behavior

J. David Johnson
Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline  •  Volume 18  •  2015  •  pp. 225-234
Tensions are a ubiquitous feature of social life and are manifested in a number of particular forms: contradictory logics, competing demands, clashes of ideas, contradictions, dialectics, irony, paradoxes, and/or dilemmas. This essay aims to explore in detail tensions surrounding seven common findings of the information seeking literature relating to: interpersonal communication, accessibility, level of skill, individual preferences, psychological limits, inertia, and costs. Our incomplete understanding of these tensions can lead us to suggest resolutions that do not recognize their underlying dualities. Human information behavior stands at the intersection of many important theoretical and policy issues (e.g., personalized medicine). Policy makers need to be more attuned to these basic tensions of information seeking recognizing the real human limits they represent to informing the public. So, even if you build a great information system, people will not necessarily use it because of the force of these underlying tensions. While rationality rules systems, irrationality rules people. The proliferation of navigator roles over the last several years is actually a hopeful sign: recognition that people need a human interface to inform them about our ever more complex health care systems.
Human information behavior; health information seeking; tensions; paradoxes, dilemmas
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