More and more people are using Twitter as a source for news information, but how do we know which feeds are legitimate and credible? Similar issues have been studied in the field of psychology. For example, how does a person assess credibility in someone’s message? Studies have found that people dressed in white lab coats are often seen as more credible than people in regular clothing, regardless of what they are trying to sell you.
A study by several computer scientists (link to the full article is below) looked at what it takes to build credibility amongst Twitter users. They collected surveys from 256 people in their 30’s who read tweets a few times a week. Participants were given several tweets to rate using a 5-point scale ranging from “greatly decreases credibility” to “greatly increases credibility.” Participants also shared their opinions using open-ended questions.
Here’s what the authors discovered. I’ve added my thoughts in bold as to how their findings have application to everyday life.
Factors affecting credibility when Tweeting:
- Credibility is questioned if the tweet comes from someone they do not follow. Additionally, the author’s bio, the number of mentions received, also helped in judging the credibility of the author. Application to your life: You’re more likely to believe the information from sources that you already know than sources you are not familiar with. You’re also more likely to believe the source if many people believe them.
- The relationship between author credibility and message credibility are strong. It was difficult to say that a message (tweet) was false if the reader viewed the author as credible. This speaks to the influence the author has in the eyes of the reader. Application to your life: If you trust the messenger, you’ll trust the information they give you is accurate and true.
- The message topic affects credibility, with science tweets considered to be more credible than those about politics or entertainment. However, the message topic had no impact on ratings of the author’s credibility. Application to your life: There are certain topics that we feel are more accurate, or more important, than other topics. But, if we trust the person delivering the message, the topic is just as important as every other topic.
- Your username affects perceptions of the credibility of your message. They found that messages coming from topical usernames (PsychologyForGrowth, AllScience) received a higher credibility rating than either traditional names (Alex_Brown), and much higher than internet names (tenacious27, crazydog33). Application in real life: A professional image enhances the credibility of your message.
- The username affects perceptions of author credibility. Authors with topical usernames had the highest credibility ratings, followed by traditional names, and internet names having the lowest ratings. Application in real life: Your name (and reputation) affects your credibility as a person.
- Non-standard grammar is the greatest factor in credibility on Twitter. If you want to be seen as credible, avoid wrtng msgs with shrtr wrds or fewr letrs. Application in real life: Take the time to share your message properly. Be succinct, but don’t mince your words. Doing so might affect your credibility.
Hoping this bit of psychology helps in establishing credibility…
Links in this post
- Morris, Counts, Roseway, Hoff, and Schwarz (2012). Tweeting is believing? Understanding microblog credibility perceptions.
- Gass, R. H. and J. S. Seiter. (1999). Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon. You can enter their book title into Google Scholar and find some interesting articles on this topic.
- Here’s an entry in Wikipedia on Source Credibility