How Motivated Cognition Impacts Information Literacy

Designer Librarian

Motivated cognition is defined as “the unconscious tendency of individuals to fit their processing of information to conclusions that suit some end or goal.”  The end goal can motivate information seeking and information processing, sometimes leading to bad decision making and ultimately poor information literacy skills. For example, if a person’s end goal is to support pre-existing beliefs, then s/he will seek out and process information that supports those beliefs. Conspiracy theorists represent an extreme example of this. But you also see it in areas such as science (e.g. climate change denial) and politics (e.g. voting). On the other hand, a person’s end goal may be to seek out accurate information, which results in better decision making and ultimately stronger information literacy skills. Librarians, of course, are a good example of people who tend to operate with accuracy goals.

In my own experience, I’ve found that students often operate with an…

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