Thursday, October 29, 2009

Credibility of Web Sites

There is a fairly long, over-jargoned study that is also damned interesting as it attempts to explain why people find some web sites as credible and why some as not credible. 

I'd love to sum up the results if I could figure out a way to do it.  Don't expect the conclusions section to help.  Lemme give it a shot, at least of the stuff that matters to me.

Subjects in the study were very confident in their ability to judge a site's credibility.  The two groups of students (which, as we all know, are not real people) were in either computer science or education.  The author predicted computer science students would score higher in confidence in judging web sites since they work more often with technology, but no differences emerge.  In other words, confidence or perceptions of knowledge are fairly consistent regardless of major.  Either confidence is independent of expertise, or there are no expertise differences between computer science and education majors when it comes to judging a web site's credibility.  I suspect both are right in this case.

Commercial sites, at least in a second experiment, seem to generate lower credibility rating than education and other sites, at least I think so.  Aspects of the study are a bit unclear and let's just say the writing is not as crisp and clear as one might wish.

But this bit, near the end, is interesting:
In particular, university students and others may rely more heavily on self-confidence and competence determinations in credibility judgments about Web resources, especially in areas where they are just becoming acclimated into a discipline or attaining competence (initial stages in developing expertise, according to Alexander’s 2003 model).
In other words, confidence (or perceived knowledge) seem to play a huge role in evaluations of web sites.   I think I'm right, seems the logic, therefore I am right -- at least in judging credibility.  I've always been interested in efficacy and perceived knowledge and the role the media either plays in supporting that confidence or in how those feelings of confidence or efficacy influence the kinds of media we consume.  But if confidence is a consistent trait independent of manipulation, then that raises a completely different set of questions.

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