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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 Study (2008)

  • 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 Study (2008)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 Study (2008)



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 Study (2008)

  • 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 Study (2008)

  • 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 Study (2008)

  • 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 Study (2008)

  • 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 Study (2008)

School of Information

University of Michigan

[email protected]