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Credibility and Human Information Behavior. Soo Young Rieh School of Information University of Michigan Information Ethics Roundtable Misinformation and Disinformation April 3-4, 2009 University of Arizona, Tucson. Yale Group – Carl Hovland (1950s) .

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credibility and human information behavior

Credibility and Human Information Behavior

Soo Young Rieh

School of Information

University of Michigan

Information Ethics RoundtableMisinformation and Disinformation

April 3-4, 2009University of Arizona, Tucson

yale group carl hovland 1950s
Yale Group – Carl Hovland (1950s)
  • Defined credibility as a receiver-based construct
  • Determined by audience’s acceptance of a speaker
  • Credibility = trustworthiness and expertise
  • Looking at both source credibility (characteristics of speakers) and message credibility (characteristics of messages or information)
two key dimensions
Two key dimensions
  • Trustworthiness: Perceived goodness and morality of the source
  • Expertise: perceived knowledge, skill, and experience of the source
credibility typology 1
Credibility Typology 1
  • Presumed credibility
    • Based on general assumptions (stereotype)
  • Reputed credibility
    • Endorsement from people, media, source
  • Surface credibility
    • From simple inspection
  • Experienced credibility
    • Based on first-hand experience

Tseng & Fogg (1999)

credibility typology 2
Credibility Typology 2
  • Conferred credibility
    • Recommended or produced by well-regarded entities
  • Tabulated credibility
    • Influenced by other individual’s ratings or recommendations
  • Emergent credibility
    • Arises from group and social engagement

Flanagin & Metzger (2008)

related concepts
Related Concepts
  • Information Quality
    • Credibility of one of the chief aspects of quality
    • Credibility provides one more layer of evaluation to select items that are initially judged to be good enough
  • Cognitive Authority
    • More than competence and trustworthiness
    • Influence other people’s thoughts individually
  • Trust
    • Reliability, dependability, confidence in a person, object, or process

Rieh & Danielson (2007)

what is human information behavior
What is Human Information Behavior?
  • Human information behavior
    • How do people recognize information need, seek for information and use the information through various types of systems, services, technology
    • Totality of human behavior including both active and passive information seeking and information use
what is information seeking behavior
What is Information Seeking Behavior?
  • What people do in response to goals (intentions) which require information support
  • How people seek information by interacting with various information systems
  • Information Searching Behavior
    • Behavior employed by the searcher in interacting with information systems
nature of credibility
Nature of Credibility
  • Selecting credible information during the information seeking process is a challenge
  • People make judgments of information credibility
  • Judgments and decisions are always made internally and can be observed through choice and its outcome
  • Credibility assessments are shaped by, embedded within, and exert an influence on people’s information seeking process
credibility and hib
Credibility and HIB
  • Credibility assessment can be better understood by examining information seeking strategies with respect to goals and tasks
  • Credibility assessment as a process
    • Predictive Judgments
      • Predictions reflecting what they can expect when accessing information resources
    • Evaluative Judgments
      • They express values and preferences about information
    • Verification
my past credibility research
My Past Credibility Research
  • Credibility assessment in the process of information seeking and Web searching
  • Credibility assessment in a wide variety of information seeking activities using diverse sources and media
  • Credibility assessment with respect to various goals and tasks related to school, work, health, product, hobbies, entertainment, etc.
exploratory study 1998
Exploratory Study (1998)
  • How do people make judgments about information quality and authority?
  • Do people apply their evaluation criteria used in traditional information systems to those in the Web?

Rieh & Belkin (1998). ASIST Proceedings

major findings from 1998 study
Major Findings from 1998 Study
  • The interviewees were more or less concerned with evaluating information quality depending upon three factors:
    • Consequences of use of information
    • Act or commitment based on information
    • The focus of inquiry
  • Most interviewees employed “different rules” or “different evaluation criteria” for the Web than in traditional information systems
experimental study 2002
Experimental Study (2002)
  • How do people decide which information source(s) to look at when they make choices among multiple sources in the Web?
  • To what extent are people concerned with quality and authority when they search in the Web?
  • What are the characteristics and factors that influence people’s judgments about information quality and cognitive authority?

Rieh (2002). JASIST

major findings from 2002 study
Major Findings from 2002 Study
  • Judgment and decision making in the Web is a continuous process
  • Subjective, relative, and situational nature in the dimensions of quality and authority
  • Content as a critical factor
  • Diverse ways of characterizing sources
  • Institutional level of source > individual level of source

Characteristics of information objects

Characteristics of sources

Predictive Judgment


Predictive Judgment

Judgment of IQ and CA

- 5 dimensions of IQ

- 6 dimensions of CA

User’s knowledge

Other factors




credibility judgments and everyday life information seeking study 2008
Credibility Judgments and Everyday Life Information Seeking Study (2008)
  • How do people make credibility assessment with respect to a variety of information activities using diverse sources and media?
  • How are people’s credibility concerns are related to their information seeking goals?
  • How do people’ credibility assessment influence on their information seeking strategies?

Rieh & Hilligoss (2008). A chapter in Digital media, youth, and credibility; Hilligoss & Rieh (2008). Information Processing & Management;

major findings from 2008 study
Major Findings from 2008 Study
  • Credibility concerns are closely related to information seeking goals in terms of consequences of information use
  • Credibility judgments in social context
    • When information obtained affects other people, credibility concerns increase
    • Participants relied on other people’s credibility judgments
  • Credibility assessment can be better understood by looking at information seeking strategies
    • Starting at a trusted place
    • Using multiple resources and cross-referencing
three levels of credibility assessment
Three Levels of Credibility Assessment

Construct: conceptualizations of credibility

Heuristics: General rules of thumb which are broadly applicable to a variety of situations

Interaction: Specific attributes associated with particular information objects and sources for credibility judgments


A Unifying Framework of Credibility Assessment



Truthfulness, believability, trustworthiness,

objectivity, reliability

Information seeker


Media-related, source-related,

endorsement-based, aesthetics-based


Content cues, peripheral source cues,

peripheral information object cues

Information object


influence of each level
Influence of Each Level
  • Construct
    • Provides a particular point of view for judging credibility
  • Heuristics
    • Provides effective ways of finding useful information conveniently and making credibility judgments quickly
  • Interaction
    • Provides characteristics of information source or object on which a judgment can be based
  • Context: Provides boundaries by
    • Guiding the selection of resources
    • Limiting the applicability of judgments
key challenges
Key Challenges
  • Complexity and continuation of Information Seeking
    • For one information seeking episode, people use multiple media resources over time
  • From information seekers to creators
    • A new set of heuristics might be used as people engage in a variety of information activities including finding, summarizing, rating, creating, sharing
  • Encourage people to make effort for selecting and using credible information by emphasizing the consequences of bad judgments and decisions based on information
next steps
Next Steps
  • Credibility Assessment in the Participatory Web Environment Project 2008-2011 funded by the MacArthur Foundation
  • Goals
    • To identify new sets of constructs and heuristics of credibility assessment have emerged in the participatory Web environment (Web 2.0)
    • To examine the relationship among online activity, user context, motivation, confidence, and credibility assessment
research questions in progress
Research Questions in Progress
  • To what extent people’s involvement in the participatory Web is related to their concerns about credibility?
  • How do people assess the credibility of user-generated content (UGC)?
  • When people post UCC (user-created content) or UMC (user-mediated content) on publicly accessible web sites, to what extent are they concerned about credibility?

Soo Young Rieh

School of Information

University of Michigan