Investigating credibility judgements in social media : the impact of attitude-consistency
Lim, Siu Chen
Date of Issue2017-10-26
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
The proliferation of social media and web 2.0 applications are enabling consumers of information to also become producers. With the lack of traditional gatekeepers in social media, biased information under the guise of fact that is produced can quickly spread. Some credibility literature indicate that people prefer balanced messages, covering all viewpoints, over one-sided messages, regardless of attitude consistency. However, other credibility research suggests the contrary, that people perceived unbalanced but attitude-consistent messages as more credible. Given that this question had never been tested in the context of social media, and given the potentially disconcerting consequences of individuals judging one-sided but attitude-consistent information as more credible on social media, this study investigated the relationship between attitude-consistency and credibility. Further, this study sought to explore a possible intervention that might mitigate the positive relationship between attitude-consistency and credibility. Finally, this study investigated if is a difference between the credibility judgements of factual and opinion based information. Data collection was conducted among the Singapore tertiary undergraduate and graduate population via online surveys. One hundred and seventy-seven (177) usable samples were collected. Results revealed that attitude-consistent information was judged as more credible than attitude-inconsistent information, and balanced information as more credible than attitude-inconsistent information. However, attitude-consistent and balanced information are viewed as comparable in terms of credibility. The social cognitive theory guided intervention aimed at mitigating the relationship between attitude-consistency and credibility was also ineffective. Lastly, factual information on a social media post was judged as more credible than even attitude-consistent information. It is concluded that confirmation bias plays a part in credibility perceptions. Findings of this study might be useful to social media service providers in understanding user behavior and indicates a possible need for indicators of objectivity or fairness of messages to be incorporated into the platform to inform users of one-sided information they might come across. This study also underscores the role of educators and instructional information professionals in educating users about confirmation bias in information processing, and the importance of verification, critical thinking, and the earnest seeking out of diverse opinions on a topic. Finally, the results of this paper prompt many ideas for future research. for example, when does attitude-consistency affect credibility judgements, and vice versa? Do people judge attitude-consistent information as more credible than balanced information in all circumstances?
DRNTU::Library and information science
Nanyang Technological University