Uncovering the Nature of Information Processing of Men and Women Online: The Comparison of Two Models Using the Think-Aloud Method
This paper compares two models predicting gender differences in information processing to determine if either of the models is more pertinent to goal-oriented Internet searches. The Selectivity Model (Meyers-Levy 1989) proposes that women make more comprehension effort than men whereas the Item-Specific/Relational Processing Model (Putrevu 2001) suggests that men and women differ primarily in their processing style, with men tending to use item-specific processing by focusing on product attributes and women tending to use relational processing by looking for interrelationships among multiple pieces of information. The study participants (106 total, 50% female) were asked to think aloud while performing one of two goal-oriented search tasks on a website. Their thoughts were then coded according to relevant categories by two independent analysts using Atlas TI software. Consistent with the Selectivity Model, women made more comprehension effort than did men. However, our hypotheses related to a difference in processing style between men and women received less support. Overall, the results help disentangle the two theories and provide website developers with a basis for creating sites that are suited to men’s and women’s distinctive information processing strategies.