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Human AND Boolean

I have read a few times that there is a big difference between the way that people interpret boolean AND & OR and the way they are used in information retrieval (most recently an article on searchenginewatch, found via Eleganthack)

I understand boolean logic, so have always had to take this claim at face value. I’ve been waiting to see it really happen (I don’t believe these things until I see them for myself).

Well, it happened today. I was talking to a user about searching a big information store. She showed me how she used one term to search and then checked each page in the result list. I was interested in whether it would be helpful to construct a more detailed query with more terms. I asked a question about searching for two things (being careful not to lead). She was very hesitant about it and I got the impression that she was not comfortable adding an extra term (using AND to join them).

We talked a bit more about this, until I realised why she was hesitant – she thought she would get more results from searching for ‘A’ AND ‘B’ – all of the pages with A and all of the pages with B.

Now I believe!

One Response to “Human AND Boolean”

  1. Column Two Says:

    Do boolean searches make sense?

    Donna Maurer has written two interesting blog entries on whether “normal” users understand how boolean terms (AND, OR, etc) work when searching. The first blog entry discussed ANDing, while the second rounds out the topic neatly with a user’s comments…

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