Here’s an area for epistemic cognition research, when do people take the lack of response to be a response in itself? That is, when do they assume (positive) knowledge of something from the lack of results returned from queries on that subject?  Of course, another reading of the title is, under what (system/computing-based, personal-epistemic, or environmental-epistemic) contexts will there be no apt response to an inquiry – for that idea, see this corresponding (upcoming, depending on when you’re reading this!) post on [testimony of silence in social q&a and search engine use]1 . Information Seeking in Search Engines 1. When people search for information on traffic (or other stuff) and do not receive answers, and take that to imply a lack of issue 2. When people search for information and receive no answer, and take that to mean poor community or poor expertise in a community 3. When people search for information and receive irrelevant answers 4. When people search for information, but do not see the response – e.g. where search results are weighted against the answer they’re looking for, Social Q&A 1. No answer received at all 1. There is no answer 2. There is no expert 3. Your question is incomprehensible 2. Answer received, but does not answer your question 3. Answer received, and does answer, but it isn’t seen 1. Users don’t understand 2. Users do understand but the system is weighted against answer (SQ&A is better at this than search engines – see below). So – what’s the epistemic implication, given the standard models (though, see some of my critique [here]2 and [here)]3 what would we expect particular beliefs to be related to? Certainty – those with a naive view might be more inclined to think there was no answer, or to take old (,etc.) answers as correct rather than think about stability (i.e. there is no answer, but they talk old knowledge as given). Those with more sophisticated perspectives might be more likely to hypothesise about the circumstances for an answer being given – either new knowledge creation, or an alteration in the query or the askers prior knowledge. Simplicity – those with a naive view might be more likely to stop at the failure to gain a factual answer, while those with more complex views might continue to look for related information and alternative keywords Source – presumably those who think source is internal might be more inclined to take a guess (less inclined to search in the first place), and less inclined to construct from prior knowledge Justification – interestingly, while other research highlights justification as key (because of course, justifying positive claims is a key facet of multiple document processing for example) it’s a bit harder to think about justification in the case of negative knowledge. I guess making positive claims (claims of something) from negative (a lack of information) is of interest – those with views of justification from multiple sources might be more likely to continue seeking information from multiple sources (and base claims on lack of information from multiples), they might also be more likely to look at aspects of the rules of inquiry (system design, scientific inquiry, etc.) that could inform why particular claims can/cannot be made.  In contrast those who believe in justification from authority or personal justification seem less likely to engage in such behaviours, and more likely to take recourse to unsubstantiated hypothesising or uncritical statements regarding a lack of information.


  1. “Testimony of Silence in Social Q&A and Search Engine Use”

  2. “Epistemic Behaviour with Epistemic Tools”

  3. “Epistemic beliefs and games”