Message and messenger: The carrier effect on judgments of credibility



When examining the ways in which individuals evaluate the credibility of information sources, it is easy to assume that these judgments are based solely on the quality of the information being presented. The study described here questions this assumption by establishing a link between the quality of the interface (rather than the content) and perceived credibility. Essentially, interface design and the “form” of information (the messenger) can negatively impact the perceived quality of the “content” of information (the message). This study tests the hypothesis that individuals searching a poorly designed digital library will perceive the contents of the collection as less authoritative and credible than a digital library with a superior interface. This focus on interface design illuminates one of the methods by which individuals evaluate new or poorly understood information: by examining the quality of its distribution mechanism. Generally speaking, this research is an indication of how individuals are prone to the carrier effect, allowing features of the messenger (the interface) to affect the perception of the message (the digital library content).