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Critical Evaluation of Information Credibility: Contextual Dimensions and Implications for Memory and Learning from Text

Posted on:2014-07-05Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:Northwestern UniversityCandidate:Sparks, Jesse RFull Text:PDF
People obtain information from a plethora of sources in their daily lives, including newspapers, websites, blogs, text messages, and conversations. Because much of this information is dubious, it is important that individuals be able to determine what information is true and worth remembering, and what can be safely discounted. Unfortunately, research suggests that people often fail to critically evaluate information in a variety of circumstances, though the extent to which individuals critically evaluate information in their everyday lives, and the criteria they use when doing so, remains understudied. Further, educational interventions intended to increase students' reliance on source information have been relatively brief, and have yielded mixed results. This dissertation explored (a) how students evaluate credibility "in the wild," and (b) whether practice evaluating source information might foster subsequent critical evaluation and comprehension of texts. Study 1 examined students' evaluations of the credibility of information encountered in their daily experiences, using a diary methodology. Students used many evaluative criteria, but relied most on the consistency of information with their prior knowledge; content that violated prior knowledge was considered non-credible. Implausible content, familiar yet unreliable sources, and persuasive intentions also reduced perceptions of credibility, while expert and authoritative sources enhanced credibility. These patterns varied with episode context, content type, information medium, and interaction partner, empirically demonstrating the importance of contextual dimensions on credibility evaluation. Study 2 assessed the impact of long-term evaluative practice on students' critical evaluations, using the diary task as an intervention. Students who practiced evaluating texts for 30 days became particularly attentive to the consistency of text content with their prior knowledge, relative to controls. This increased attention to content contributed to better integration of content across disparate texts in a multiple document reading task. This work contributes to research on credibility evaluation by articulating a role for prior knowledge in this process, and by illustrating the influence of context on students' critical evaluations of their everyday communicative interactions. In addition, results suggest that long-term interventions requiring students to connect text content with their prior knowledge may usefully affect their evaluation and comprehension of texts.
Keywords/Search Tags:Information, Text, Evaluation, Prior knowledge, Credibility, Content, Critical, Students
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