Investigation and Modelling of Quantum-like User Cognitive Behaviour in Information Access and Retrieval

Uprety, Sagar (2021). Investigation and Modelling of Quantum-like User Cognitive Behaviour in Information Access and Retrieval. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is fundamentally about using conceptual and mathematical constructs from the area of Quantum Theory in Information Retrieval (IR). The need and motivation for this is two-fold – firstly, it has been increasingly shown in decision sciences that human decision-making does not always conform to the norms of traditional probability and logic framework. The quantum framework offers a generalised probability and logic framework which can model decisions or judgements under dynamic context and ambiguity. Secondly, there is a need in IR for theories and models which improve our understanding of user behaviour. Hence it is worth exploring the combination of the quantum framework and IR, especially focused on the user aspects of IR. The overarching research question is whether there is evidence of user behaviour in IR scenarios which warrants the need for a quantum based approach by way of showing the limitations of the traditional (classical) approach. The methodology involves analysing data to detect quantum-like phenomena of interference, contextuality, incompatibility, etc. from two common data sources in IR–standard datasets like query log data, and through crowdsourced user studies designed similar to some quantum physics or cognitive science experiments. While the evidence of quantum-like phenomena from standard datasets is not convincing, we find that some of the user studies reveal the quantum-like structure of document judgements. One of the key findings which has implication for IR is the dynamic interactions between the different dimensions of relevance. For example, a user’s judgement of reliability of a document depends significantly on whether they found it understandable or not. Thus, the consideration of one relevance dimension or document feature can provide a context for another dimension, contrary to the current IR models which consider these features to be independent of each other and an objective property of the document. The quantum framework has been especially designed to deal with such scenarios where properties of systems or objects do not exist independent of measurement context. The thesis concludes with suggestions about incorporating quantum mathematical constructs into state-of-art IR algorithms.

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