Epistemic beliefs and internet reliance – is algorithmic authority part of the picture?

Tore Ståhl, Eero Sormunen, Marita Mäkinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Purpose: The internet and search engines dominate within people’s information acquisition, especially among the younger generations. Given this trend, this study aims to explore if information and communication technology (ICT) practices, internet reliance and views of knowledge and knowing, i.e. epistemic beliefs, interact with each other. Everyday practices and conceptions among beginning undergraduate students are studied as a challenge for higher education. Design/methodology/approach: The study builds upon survey-based quantitative data operationalising students’ epistemic beliefs, their internet reliance and their ICT practices. The survey items were used to compute subscales describing these traits, and the connections were explored using correlations analysis. Findings: The results suggest that the more beginning undergraduate students rely on internet-based information, the more they are inclined to epistemic beliefs where knowledge is regarded as certain, unchanging, unambiguous and as being handed down by some authority. Research limitations/implications: The approach used in the study applies to the sample used, and further research is required to test the applicability of the approach on larger samples. Practical implications: The study highlights the risk of everyday information practices being transferred into the educational context. Social implications: Ignorance of these changes may pose a risk for knowledge building on different educational levels and in a longer perspective, a threat to democracy. Originality/value: While there is some research on epistemic beliefs in relation to internet-based information, studies approaching the problem over a possible connection between epistemic beliefs and internet reliance are scarce. In addition, this study implies a conceptual bridge between epistemic beliefs and internet reliance over the concept of algorithmic authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)726-748
JournalInformation and Learning Science
Issue number11/12
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Algorithmic authority
  • Digital literacy
  • Epistemic beliefs
  • Internet
  • Reliance
  • Search engines

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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