Information Anxiety: Fact, Fable or Fallacy


  • John Girard
  • Michael Allison


information anxiety, knowledge management, information overload


The aim of this paper is to compare and contrast the findings of three recent empirical studies that examined the construct of information anxiety. The concept of anxiety created from information has been studied for hundreds of years; however, this paper views this complex relationship based on the foundation provided by Richard Wurman's book Information Anxiety (1989). The three studies explored the five subcomponents of information anxiety as described by Wurman: not understanding information; feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information to be understood; not knowing if certain information exists; not knowing where to find information; and knowing exactly where to find the information, but not having the key to access it. In order to gauge the level of information anxiety a survey instrument was designed using eight management scenarios suggested by Davenport and Prusak in Working Knowledge (1998). Four of the eight scenarios examine the creation of information from data and four scenarios focus on the transformation of information into knowledge. Of specific interest to these studies was the question is there a difference between information overload and information anxiety. In other words, is the issue simply one of quantity or do other information related challenges make a difference. To this end, the researchers sought to determine if respondents perceived a difference between information overload and the other components of information anxiety. The first of these studies determined that respondents reported a statistically significant difference between information overload and several other components while the second study's respondents did not report such a difference. The conflicting results begged the question: is information anxiety a fact, fiction, or fallacy? The third study reinforced the finding of the initial study suggesting information anxiety is a real organizational malady worthy of the attention of senior leaders. Clearly additional research is required to further refine the malady, its causes, and ways to combat its debilitating effects.



1 Oct 2008



General Paper