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Information overload

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Information overload

Information overload (also known as infobesity or infoxication) refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

  • Bargh, John A., and Roman D. Thein. "Individual construct accessibility, person memory, and the recall-judgment link: The case of information overload." Journal of personality and Social Psychology 49.5 (1985): 1129. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.49.5.1129
  • Edmunds, Angela, and Anne Morris. "The problem of information overload in business organisations: a review of the literature." International journal of information management 20.1 (2000): 17-28. doi:10.1016/S0268-4012(99)00051-1
  • Hiltz, Starr R., and Murray Turoff. "Structuring computer-mediated communication systems to avoid information overload." Communications of the ACM 28.7 (1985): 680-689.
  • Jones, Quentin, Gilad Ravid, and Sheizaf Rafaeli. "Information overload and the message dynamics of online interaction spaces: A theoretical model and empirical exploration". Information systems research 15.2 (2004): 194-210.
  • Maes, Pattie. "Agents that reduce work and information overload." Communications of the ACM 37.7 (1994): 30-40.
  • O'Reilly, Charles A. "Individuals and information overload in organizations: is more necessarily better?." Academy of management journal 23.4 (1980): 684-696. doi:10.2307/255556
  • Schindler, Martin, and Martin J. Eppler. "Harvesting project knowledge: a review of project learning methods and success factors." International Journal of Project Management 21.3 (2003): 219-228. doi:10.1016/S0263-7863(02)00096-0

Further reading

  1. ^ Yang, C.C.; Chen, Hsinchun; Honga, Kay (2003). "Visualization of large category map for Internet browsing" (PDF). Decision Support Systems 35 (1): 89–102.  
  2. ^ Gross, Bertram M. (1964). The Managing of Organizations: The Administrative Struggle. p. 856. 
  3. ^ Speier, Cheri; Valacich, Joseph; Vessey, Iris (1999). "The Influence of Task Interruption on Individual Decision Making: An Information Overload Perspective". Decision Sciences 30.  
  4. ^ Sage reference - Information Overload
  5. ^ "The Magical Number Seven". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Brand Choice Behavior as a Function of Information Load: Replication and Extension (1974) Journal of consumer research, Volume: 1, Issue: 1 (June 1974), pp: 33–42.
  7. ^ a b c d e Blair, A. (28 November 2010). "Information overload, the early years".  
  8. ^ Blair, A. (28 November 2010). "Information overload, then and now". The Chronicle Review. 
  9. ^ Blair, A. (14 March 2011). "Information overload's 2300-year-old history". Harvard Business Review. 
  10. ^ a b Wellmon, Chad. "Why Google Isn't Making Us Stupid…or Smart". Hedgehog Review 14.1 (2012): n. pag. Web.
  11. ^ Johann Georg Heinzmann, Appell an meine Nation: Über die Pest der deutschen Literatur (Bern: 1795) 125. ISBN 9783806706598
  12. ^ Hemp, P. (September 2009). Death by information overload. Harvard Business Review, 87(9), 83–89. Retrieved from
  13. ^ Koroleva, Ksenia; Krasnova, Hanna. Gunther, Oliver. (2010). STOP SPAMMING ME!" – Exploring Information Overload on Facebook""". AMCIS 2010 Proceedings. 
  14. ^ Speier, C., Valacich, J. S., & Vessey, I. (1999). The influence of task interruption on individual decision making: An information overload perspective. Decision Sciences, 30(2), 337–360.
  15. ^ "The PIECES Framework". Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  16. ^ "World Internet Users Statistics and 2015 World Population Stats". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c d "ProQuest – Databases, EBooks and Technology for Research". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  18. ^ Jones, B. (1993), "An Age of Discontinuity", in Sleepers Wake! Technology and the Future of Work, 3rd Ed., Melbourne, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195537567, pp. 11–45
  19. ^ Jenkins, H. (2006) Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, New York University Press
  20. ^ "ProQuest - Databases, EBooks and Technology for Research". 
  21. ^ Flew, T. (2008) New Media: an introduction, Third Edition, Oxford University Press: Australia
  22. ^ Graham, G. (1999) The Internet: a philosophical inquiry, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-0415197496
  23. ^ Sonora Jha, 2007, Social Movements, The Internet and The Press, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly-New Media, Volume 84, No.1, p. 42
  24. ^ "The Read-Write Internet". 17 January 2006. 
  25. ^ a b c Lincoln, Anthony (March 2011). "FYI: TMI: Toward a holistic social theory of information overload". First Monday 16. 
  26. ^ a b Kovach, Bill (2010). Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload. USA, New York: Bloomsbury.  
  27. ^ Lohr, Steve (20 December 2007). "Is Information Overload a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy?". New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  28. ^ Stross, Randall (20 April 2008). "Struggling to Evade the E-Mail Tsunami". New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  29. ^ Tahmincioglu, Eve. "Dealing with a bloated inbox". MSNBC. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  30. ^ Nick Collins (7 December 2010). "'"Email has turned us into 'lab rats. London: The Daily Telegraph. 
  31. ^ Doomen, J. (2009), Information Inflation. Journal of Information Ethics, 18 (2), pp. 27–37 (esp. pp. 34, 35)
  32. ^ Goldhaber, Michael H. (7 April 1997). "The Attention Economy and the Net". First Monday 2 (4). Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  33. ^ a b Pot, Justin. "Eating Only Desert: Why Your Information Diet is Probably Terrible (Feature)". 
  34. ^ Asay, Matt (13 January 2009). "Shirky: Problem is filter failure, not info overload". Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  35. ^ Burkemann, Oliver (2 November 2012). "This column will change your life: Information Overload". The Guardian (London). 
  36. ^ Koroleva, Ksenia; Krasnova, Hanna. Gunther, Oliver (2010). ""STOP SPAMMING ME!" Exploring Information Overload on Facebook". AMCIS 2010 Proceedings. 
  37. ^ "Predictors of cancer information overload: findings from a national survey". Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  38. ^ Miller, Kevin A. (18 May 2009). Surviving Information Overload: The Clear, Practical Guide to Help You Stay on Top of What You Need to Know. Zondervan. p. 240. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  39. ^ Lively, Lynn (1996). Managing Information Overload. AMACOM. p. 94. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  40. ^ The Principle of Relevance, Stefania Lucchetti, RT Publishing 2010, Hong Kong. ISBN 978-9889975821
  41. ^ La carrera por la atención
  42. ^ "Information Architecture". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  43. ^ Mulrow, E. J. (2002). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. "Technometrics". Technometrics 44 (4): 400–400. doi:10.1198/tech.2002.s78
  44. ^ Twist, Jo (13 October 2003). "Web guru fights info pollution".  
  45. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (11 August 2003). "Information Pollution".  
  46. ^ Rigby, Rhymer (23 August 2006). "Warning: interruption overload". Retrieved 26 January 2013. 


See also

Related terms

Some [43]

Decision makers performing complex tasks have little if any excess cognitive capacity. Narrowing one's attention as a result of the interruption is likely to result in the loss of information cues, some of which may be relevant to completing the task. Under these circumstances, performance is likely to deteriorate. As the number or intensity of the distractions/interruptions increases, the decision maker's cognitive capacity is exceeded, and performance deteriorates more severely. In addition to reducing the number of possible cues attended to, more severe distractions/interruptions may encourage decision makers to use heuristics, take shortcuts, or opt for a satisficing decision, resulting in lower decision accuracy (Baron, 1986).

Illustration for an Illustration for an article[41] published in Diario Uno

The problem of organisation

Clay Johnson, the author of the book "The Information Diet", uses a metaphor for Information Overload by comparing the information we consume to a diet. The idea is that people tend to consume the information that they find to be interesting, which he says is similar to people "eating desert first". The use of social networks, blogs, and online videos has accentuated this because people share what they find interesting with all their friends online causing it to spread. There is a need to create cheap, popular information and this is how the media has defined itself today; by producing information like this. He compares it to the food industry which industrialized and created incentives for producing a large amount of cheap, popular calories.[33]

Other than that, there are many books published to encourage awareness of information overload and to train the reader to process information more consciously and effectively. Books like "Surviving Information Overload" by Kevin A. Miller,[38] "Managing Information Overload" by Lynn Lively,[39] and "The Principle of Relevance" by Stefania Lucchetti all deal with the topic.[40]

Media scholars are conducting research to promote awareness of information overload. Kyunghye Kim, Mia Liza A. Lustria, Darrell Burke, and Nahyun Kwon conducted a study regarding people who have encountered information overload while searching for health information about cancer and what the impact on them was.[37] The conclusion drawn from the research discusses how health information should be distributed and that information campaigns should be held to prevent irrelevant or incorrect information being circulated on the internet.


Dealing with IO from a social network site such as Facebook, a study done by Humboldt University[36] showed some strategies that students take to try and alleviate IO while using Facebook. Some of these strategies included: Prioritizing updates from friends who were physically farther away in other countries, hiding updates from less-prioritized friends, deleting people from their friends list, narrowing the amount of personal information shared, and deactivating the Facebook account.

The use of Internet applications and add-ons such as the Inbox Pause add-on for Gmail.[35] This add-on does not reduce the amount of e-mails that people get but it pauses the inbox. Burkeman in his article talks about the feeling of being in control is the way to deal with information overload which might involve self-deception. He advises to fight irrationality with irrationality by using add-ons that allow you to pause your inbox or produce other results. Reducing large amounts of information is key.

states that:[34]

Clay Shirky

Johnson advises discipline which helps mitigate interruptions and for the elimination of push or notifications. He explains that notifications pull people's attentions away from their work and into social networks and e-mails. He also advises that people stop using their iPhones as alarm clocks which means that the phone is the first thing that people will see when they wake up leading to people checking their e-mail right away.[33]

There are various solutions to can be used to mitigate IO. It is difficult to say whether or not there is a solution that can solve the issue altogether, but many methods have been suggested.

Dealing with information overload

Economics often assumes that people are rational in that they have the knowledge of their preferences and an ability to look for the best possible ways to maximize his preferences. People are seen as selfish and focus on what pleases them. Looking at various parts on their own, results in the negligence of the other parts that work alongside it that create the effect of IO. Lincoln suggests possible ways to look at IO in a more holistic approach by recognizing the many possible factors that play a role in IO and how they work together to achieve IO.[25]

Recent research suggests that an "attention economy" of sorts will naturally emerge from information overload,[32] allowing Internet users greater control over their online experience with particular regard to communication mediums such as e-mail and instant messaging. This could involve some sort of cost being attached to e-mail messages. For example, managers charging a small fee for every e-mail received – e.g. $5.00 – which the sender must pay from their budget. The aim of such charging is to force the sender to consider the necessity of the interruption. However, such a suggestion undermines the entire basis of the popularity of e-mail, namely that e-mails are free.

Responses of business and government


In addition to e-mail, the World Wide Web has provided access to billions of pages of information. In many offices, workers are given unrestricted access to the Web, allowing them to manage their own research. The use of search engines helps users to find information quickly. However, information published online may not always be reliable, due to the lack of authority-approval or a compulsory accuracy check before publication. This results in people having to cross-check what they read before using it for decision-making, which takes up more time.

The Daily Telegraph quoted Nicholas Carr, former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review and the author of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, as saying that email exploits a basic human instinct to search for new information, causing people to become addicted to "mindlessly pressing levers in the hope of receiving a pellet of social or intellectual nourishment". His concern is shared by Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, who stated that "instantaneous devices" and the abundance of information people are exposed to through e-mail and other technology-based sources could be having an impact on the thought process, obstructing deep thinking, understanding, impedes the formation of memories and makes learning more difficult. This condition of "cognitive overload" results in diminished information retaining ability and failing to connect remembrances to experiences stored in the long-term memory, leaving thoughts "thin and scattered".[30] This is also manifest in the education process.[31]

In January 2011, Eve Tahmincioglu, a writer for MSNBC, wrote an article titled "Dealing with a bloated inbox." Compiling statistics with commentary, she reported that there were 294 billion emails sent each day in 2010, up 50 billion from 2009. Quoted in the article, workplace productivity expert Marsha Egan stated that people need to differentiate between working on e-mail and sorting through it. This meant that rather than responding to every email right away, users should delete unnecessary emails and sort the others into action or reference folders first. Egan then went on to say "We are more wired than ever before, and as a result need to be more mindful of managing email or it will end up managing us."[29]

A December 2007 New York Times blog post described E-mail as "a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy",[27] and the New York Times reported in April 2008 that "E-MAIL has become the bane of some people's professional lives" due to information overload, yet "none of [the current wave of high-profile Internet startups focused on email] really eliminates the problem of e-mail overload because none helps us prepare replies".[28]

E-mail remains a major source of information overload, as people struggle to keep up with the rate of incoming messages. As well as filtering out unsolicited commercial messages (spam), users also have to contend with the growing use of email attachments in the form of lengthy reports, presentations and media files.

  • A rapidly increasing rate of new information being produced also known as journalism of assertion which is a continuous news culture where there is a premium put on how quickly news can be put out which leads to a competitive advantage in news reporting but this affects the quality of the news stories.[26]:38–45
  • The ease of duplication and transmission of data across the Internet
  • An increase in the available channels of incoming information (e.g. telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, RSS)
  • Ever-increasing amounts of historical information to dig through
  • Contradictions and inaccuracies in available information
  • A low signal-to-noise ratio
  • A lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information
  • The pieces of information are unrelated or do not have any overall structure to reveal their relationships

The general causes of information overload include:

General causes

“The resulting abundance of – and desire for more (and/or higher quality) – information has come to be perceived in some circles, paradoxically, as the source of as much productivity loss as gain."[25] Information Overload can lead to "information anxiety," which is the gap between the information we understand and the information that we think that we must understand. As people consume increasing amounts of information in the form of news stories, e-mails, blog posts, Facebook statuses, Tweets, Tumblr posts and other new sources of information, they become their own editors, gatekeepers, and aggregators of information.[26] One concern in this field is that massive amounts of information can be distracting and negatively impact productivity and decision-making. Another concern is the "contamination" of useful information with information that might not be entirely accurate (Information pollution). Research done is often done with the view that IO is a problem that can be understood in a rational way.[25]

According to Sonora Jha of Seattle University, journalists use the Web to conduct research, get information regarding interviewing sources and press releases and update news online.[23] Lawrence Lessig has described this as the "read-write" nature of the Internet.[24]

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own research[16] and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites.[17][17] Users are now classified as active users[17] because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age.[18] More and more people are considered to be active writers and viewers because of their participation.[19] This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information.[17][20] Therefore, we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.[21][22]

In today's society, day-to-day activities increasingly involve the technological world where information technology exacerbates the number of interruptions that occur in the work environment.[14] A study from 1997 that found 50% of management in Fortune 1000 companies were disrupted by emails more than six times an hour. Adding this decade's use of the Internet, management may be even more disrupted in their decision making, and may result in more poor decisions. Thus, the PIECES framework mentions information overload as a potential problem in existing information systems.[15]

In the modern information age, information overload is experienced as distracting and unmanageable information such as email spam, email notifications, instant messages, Tweets and Facebook updates in the context of the work environment.[12] Social media has resulted in "social information overload," which can occur on sites like Facebook,[13] and technology is changing to serve our social culture.

In the second half of the 20th Century, advances in computer and information technology led to the creation of the Internet.

Information age

Many grew concerned with the rise of books in Europe, especially in England, France, and Germany. From 1750 to 1800, there was a 150% increase in the production of books.[10] In 1702, jurist and philosopher Christian Thomasius expressed concerns about the overproduction of books, comparing it to an epidemic. Thomasius felt with more books being published, the standards of publishing a book decreased. In 1795, German bookseller and publisher Johann Georg Heinzmann said "no nation printed as much as the Germans"[11] and expresses concern about Germans reading ideas and no longer creating original thoughts and ideas.[10]

18th century

Around 1440 AD, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and this marked another period of information proliferation. As a result of lowering production costs, generation of printed materials ranging from pamphlets, manuscripts to books were made available to the average person.[7][9] Scholars complained about the abundance of information for a variety of reasons, such as the diminishing quality of text as printers rushed to print manuscripts and the supply of new information being distracting and difficult to manage.[7]


Information overload has been documented throughout periods where advances in technology have increased a production of information.[7] As early as the 3rd or 4th century BC, people regarded information overload with disapproval.[7] Around this time, in Ecclesiastes 12:12, the passage revealed the writer's comment "of making books there is no end" and in 1st century AD, Seneca the Elder commented, that "the abundance of books is distraction".[7] Similar complaints around the growth of books were also mentioned in China.[8]

Early history


As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes.
— Denis Diderot, "Encyclopédie" (1755)

Long before that, the concept was introduced by Diderot, although it was not by the term "information overload":

A quite early example of the term "information overload" can be found in an article by Jacob Jacoby, Donald Speller and Carol Kohn Berning, who conducted an experiment on 192 housewives which was said to confirm the hypothesis that more information about brands would lead to poorer decision making.[6]

[5] Psychologists have recognized for many years that humans have a limited capacity to store current information in the memory. Psychologist

One of the first social scientists to notice the negative effects of information overload was the sociologist Stanley Milgram (1933–1984) later used the concept of information overload to explain bystander behavior.[4]

Origin of the term


  • Origin of the term 1
  • History 2
    • Early history 2.1
    • Renaissance 2.2
    • 18th century 2.3
    • Information age 2.4
  • General causes 3
  • Responses 4
    • Responses of business and government 4.1
    • Dealing with information overload 4.2
    • Media 4.3
    • The problem of organisation 4.4
  • Related terms 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

In recent years, the term "information overload" has evolved into phrases such as "information glut" and "data smog" (Shenk, 1997). What was once a term grounded in cognitive psychology has evolved into a rich metaphor used outside the world of academia. In many ways, the advent of information technology has increased the focus on information overload: information technology may be a primary reason for information overload due to its ability to produce more information more quickly and to disseminate this information to a wider audience than ever before (Evaristo, Adams, & Curley, 1995; Hiltz & Turoff, 1985).

Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.

[3] Speier et al. (1999) stated:[2]

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