Metzger, M. J., & Flanagin, A. J. (2013). Credibility and trust of information in online environments: The use of cognitive heuristics. Journal of Pragmatics, ?.
Digital media use the same cognitive skills and abilities for evaluating credibility, but they are called into use much more often.
In digital environment, disintermediation removes or calls into question the experts, opinion leaders, and information arbiters that we traditionally relied on to judge credibility for us.
Source credibility (believability, trustworthiness of the speaker) versus information credibility (believability, trustworthiness of the message.) Can evaluate either or both.
When it took a big investment to put information out there, there was more of a meritocracy – no one would invest in or stake their reputation on information that didn’t satisfy some standard of theirs. But now the barriers to putting information out there are much lower, so you can’t assume that information has met any standard at all.
Online information may lack author identity information, or have false information. It may also be co-authored, a derivative work, aggregated, etc. Creates uncertainty about who is responsible for the information.
Information online is easy altered and alterations are hard/impossible to detect.
Different types of content are blended more imperceptibly online (advertising and information, for example.) Sponsored links, embedded ads. Similar format is interpreted as similar levels of quality.
“Context deficit” online. Hard to notice/remember whence/from whom information came.
Have to evaluate credibility at many levels – information, individual author, site, organization…
Recommend checking: Accuracy, Authority, Objectivity, Currency, Coverage/Scope of the information and/or the information source
People rarely evaluate information sources and instead decide based on web design and navigability (it’s easier/faster/more convenient to make decisions that way.)
Cognitive heuristics used to minimize cognitive effort and time spent on information search and evaluation.
Sundar (2008) first proposed that heuristics concerning the content and technology guide evaluation of credibility.
– modality (text, audio, video)
– agency (perceived source)
Metzger (2010) found that in information rich environments, searchers use heuristics involving:
– reputation: prefer recognized alternatives over unfamiliar ones. Especially known “official” authorities.
– endorsement: prefer alternatives recommended by known others, or by the crowd.
– consistency: information is same across different sources; although checking may be superficial.
– self-confirmation: prefer alternatives that agree with what you already believe over those that don’t. People tend to be even more biased when searching online because they don’t have time to deal with the information overload.
– expectancy violation: if a web site fails to meet any sort of expectation (even if it just provides more information than requested) it is judged as not credible. Usually bad design, navigation, spelling, grammar, or appearance.
– persuasive intent: favor information that appears unbiased. Defense against feeling of being manipulated – try to detect ulterior motives. People tend to avoid commercial information.
False equation between popularity and credibility. If something is unpopular, it doesn’t mean it’s not credible. If something is popular, it might be credible, or it might just be a really good manipulation.