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Informational Utility

Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick

Subject Psychology
Communication Studies » Communication Reception and Effects

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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


In the context of →  information seeking through mass media use, the concept of informational utility has been developed to predict which information items an individual will attend to and which will be ignored. The concept of utility of information emerged in the discussion about cognitive dissonance (→  Cognitive Dissonance Theory ), and related predictions were corroborated in a few empirical investigations as early as the 1960s (e.g., Canon 1964 ; Freedman 1965 ). A more detailed elaboration of informational utility, though without specific empirical exploration, was provided by Atkin (1973) . He suggested four domains of informational utility and conceptualized information to potentially meet needs of surveillance, performance, guidance, and reinforcement. Information needs were taken to result from uncertainties in how to respond to everyday environmental requirements. Thus, information is needed for adaptation to the environment, cognitive adaptation (surveillance), behavioral adaptation (performance), affective adaptation (guidance), and sometimes defensive adaptation (reinforcement). Cognitive adaptation (surveillance) has attracted most attention in subsequent research. On surveillance as an informational utility facet, Atkin stated that the individual “maintains surveillance over potential changes that may require adaptive adjustments, monitoring threats or opportunities ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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