From attitudes to usage
This paper is an exploration of what happens when a service is provided that users have said they want. We have been able to study users who have the opportunity to go seamlessly from electronic discovery of an article title to its full electronic text, an opportunity many of them had been asking for. We might expect that, where attitudes are positive, there would be a rapid take-up of the service. However, attitude research has consistently found that a positive attitude does not necessarily translate into action. In the information systems domain we could hypothesize, for example, that there are many barriers that might prevent usage developing.
A model of user behaviour that has stimulated much user attitude research in relation to the use of information systems is the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davies, 1993). This relatively simple model depicts attitudes towards using a service as the product of perceived benefits (the ‘pull’) and perceived ease of use (the barriers to use). Many attitude surveys have been inspired by the TAM. For example, studies of user attitudes to internet shopping have demonstrated that perceived benefits are tempered by concerns over the trust users can have in handing over financial information.
TAM researchers have focused on the factors that affect attitudes, rather than the usage patterns that result. They have not looked at what gets used and how usage develops over time, but we know from many studies that use of a service is often very selective. A study of branch banking staff, for example, found that most clerks used only five of the 36 features of a service that gave them access to information in a customer's account (Eason, 1984). Similarly, a study of the use of telephone #* services showed that users typically used only one or two of the many services available (Eason and Damodaran, 1986). Why do users select some features and ignore others? We have had an opportunity to follow the attitudes and usage patterns of the users of a major bibliographic record system over a fouryear period. As a result, we have been able to follow the way attitudes have translated into behaviour and the factors that have influenced this translation.