How users rely on heuristics and emotions to form credibility impressions of novel online news articles.
Accepted for presentation at the 69th annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference, Washington, D.C.
ABSTRACT: Social media and other online platforms are increasingly the way consumers access news articles, which increases the likelihood of users visiting articles from sources they may not have visited on their own. Users of these platforms experience a tension between their tendency to focus resources on processing information rather than credibility assessment. In a within-subjects laboratory experiment, two sets of unobtrusive psychophysiological measures to examine the role of visual attention to page elements and discrete negative emotions in influencing participants’ (N=40) snapshot or “first impression” credibility judgments of 30 online news articles ranging widely in source and topic. The results suggest that for most participants, discrete emotions do not play a primary role in the evaluation process, and participants primarily pay attention to content-specific cues (headline, lead image) over source-credibility cues (publisher name, author/date information, and URL) in forming their initial assessments.