Source credibility using the digital media - My thoughts as a virtual human researcher

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Category : Paper Summaries

Recently, one of my collaborator with expertise in Health and Science Communication, shared a paper with me discussing about credibility in digital media. I wanted to discuss my takeaways as a virtual human researcher in this blog.

Paper -

Flanagin, A., & Metzger, M. J. (2017). Digital media and perceptions of source credibility in political communication. The Oxford handbook of political communication, 417.


The paper provides a summary of how source credibility has been studied in political communication using digital media. Although the domain is political communication, I think there are some interesting takeaways for virtual human researchers.

Interesting takeaways:

  1. I have always used credibility and trust interchangeably. However, source credibility = source expertise + source trustworthiness
  2. Source credibility is positively associated with persuasion.
  3. The receiver’s credibility in source depends on how closely the position advocated by the source matches the receiver’s position and his or her own expectations.
  4. Leveling effect: All the information online has same level of accessibility, and information is presented in similar ways, therefore people perceive same level of credibility.

Implications/Ideas for virtual human research:

  1. Based on takeaway 3, I would hypothesize that virtual humans can be made more credible if virtual human first agrees with the user on a different topic and then attempt to persuade user on the topic of interest.
  2. Based on leveling effect, users might compare virtual humans with other “digital assistant” technologies (like Alexa) when measuring their credibility. So knowing user’s prior experience with such technologies can give a better understanding.

PS: This is my first attempt to write a blog. Any feedback or tips to improve are welcome.