Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Dr. Laura Whitlock, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Lee Gugerty

Committee Member

Dr. Rich Pak

Committee Member

Dr. Fred Switzer

Abstract

Internet forums (Yahoo! Answers, Reddit, etc.) have become highly utilized resources that provide informational support on diverse topics. Nearly anyone can contribute information to forums, regardless of their expertise on the topic. Thus, forum users are responsible for evaluating the advice they receive. This raises questions of how information credibility is assessed by users, particularly those seeking health information in forums. There are many explicit and implicit cues that may influence how users evaluate information credibility on health forums, such as spelling accuracy and community star ratings. However, many of these cues have only been examined through interview techniques and not studied experimentally. The present study used the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) as a theoretical framework to explain how forum users evaluated health information under different circumstances. A factorial design was used to examine how perceived credibility of forum advice was affected by community star ratings, the presence or absence of spelling errors, the level of participant involvement, and the context of the severity of the health topic. Results indicated that posts with high star ratings were perceived as significantly more credible than posts with low star ratings, and posts without spelling errors were perceived as significantly more credible than posts with spelling errors. However, results did not support participants’ credibility evaluations of advice through the ELM framework. The lack of support for this framework may have implications for how much effort forum users take to evaluate advice credibility. However, limitations of the study may have played a role in the findings and thus are discussed.

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