Abstract: This study examined how individuals’ emotional and cognitive responses to different shades of truth embedded in health crisis (mis)information (i.e., full falsity vs. partial falsity vs. full truth) might predict their information vetting and sharing intentions on social media. In the context of COVID-19 and based on an online survey of 725 UK WhatsApp users, the key findings of our study include: 1) Various shades of truth in provided COVID-19 information directly triggered participants’ sense of hope and influenced their intentions to vet and share the (mis)information they read; 2) Hope, confusion, and misinformation belief functioned as affective and cognitive predictors for whether and how individuals intended to share the (mis)information with immediate family members and strangers in their social networks. Multi-group mediation models further revealed the critical role hope played in evoking other emotions (i.e., confusion and anxiety) and forming misinformation belief, which in turn, led to varied (mis)information vetting and sharing behavioral intentions.
Accepted for presentation at the International Communication Association (ICA) Conference, Information Systems Division, May 21-25, 2020, Gold Coast, Australia.
Abstract: To refine the conceptualization and operationalization of information vetting in an increasingly complex and conflicting media environment, this study developed and tested a 26-item scale for measuring whether (and if so, how) individuals vet information in the context of a crisis embedded with conflicting information, employing two survey data sets based on U.S. adult samples. Four clusters of information vetting behaviors were rendered, affirming and extending the two-stage information vetting conceptual framework: (1) motivation, (2) primary vetting in terms of source perception, (3) primary vetting in terms of channel perception, and (4) secondary vetting in terms of subjective feeling about self. This new scale’s validity and reliability were further assessed and confirmed, making it a useful tool for measuring individuals’ online informational and communicative behavior in times of crisis, conflict, and other contentious issues that trigger the urgency for information vetting before its full consumption and further dissemination.