Appetitive information seeking behaviour reveals robust daily rhythmicity for Internet-based food-related keyword searches

Nicolas Scrutton Alvarado, Tyler J Stevenson

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There has been an exponential growth of information seeking behaviour (ISB) via Internet-based programs over the past decade. The availability of software that record ISB temporal patterns has provided a valuable opportunity to examine biological rhythms in human behaviour. Internet search repositories, such as Google Trends, permit the analyses of large datasets that can be used to track ISB on a domestic and international scale. We examined daily and seasonal Google Trends search patterns for keywords related to food intake, using the most relevant search terms for the USA, UK, Canada, India and Australia. Daily and seasonal ISB rhythmicity were analysed using CircWave v. 1.4. Daily ISB data revealed a robust and significant sine waveform for general terms (e.g. 'pizza delivery') and country-specific search terms (e.g. 'just eat'). The pattern revealed clear evening double-peaks, occurring every day at 19.00 and 02.00. The patterns were consistent across search terms, days of the week and geographical locations, suggesting a common ISB rhythm that is not necessarily culture-dependent. Then, we conducted Cosinor v. 2.4 analyses to examine the daily amplitudes in ISB. The results indicated a non-significant linear increased from Monday to Sunday. Seasonal data did not show consistent significant ISB patterns. It is likely that two different human populations are responsible for the daily 'early' and 'late' evening ISB peaks. We propose that the major factor that contributes to the bimodal evening peak is age-dependent (e.g. adolescent, early adulthood versus midlife and mature adulthood) and a minor role for human chronotypes (e.g. late versus early). Overall, we present novel human appetitive behaviour for information seeking of food resources and propose that Internet-based search patterns reflect a biological rhythm of motivation for energy balance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number172080
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number7
Early online date25 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jul 2018


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