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Abstract

Two studies assessed the perception of epistemic authority (denoting a source of information which has a determinative influence on the acquisition of knowledge) by means of a scale (Epistemic Authority Scale) which was constructed for this purpose. The first study showed that individuals perceive political leaders with similar political orientations as greater epistemic authorities than political leaders with different political orientations. In addition, the study investigated the reasons used by the subjects to explain reliance or lack of reliance on political leaders. In general, the responses showed that leaders' expressed opinions and characteristics were important determinants in epistemic authority selection. The second study found that students of statistics departments have a greater tendency to perceive their professors as epistemic authorities in their disciplinary knowledge than students of psychology departments, while the latter are more likely than the former to perceive their professors as epistemic authorities in general knowledge domains. Analysis of the Reason scores for reliance on the professors in the two departments reveals that expertness received the highest ratings.