How Trustworthiness Seals Can Highlight Information and Influence Decisions
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People making decisions require information about their options. Across a wide range of tasks, they receive information from diverse sources, such as the Web, print, radio and television. As the Internet Age progresses, each decision maker must increasingly assess the credibility of the author, the credibility of the evidence the author cites, and the credibility of the publisher in order to gauge the credibility of the information. We wanted to determine whether publishers and authors could affix “trustworthiness seals” to stated claims to increase their persuasiveness. We created pairs of descriptions for comparable options that employed no seals, some weak generic seals, and some strong seals guaranteeing veracity. Experimental subjects rated their preferences for each option promoted with an advertisement bearing some of these seals and also made forced choices between pairs of comparable options. The results show that all seals have a significant effect on perceived attractiveness of options and that the strong seals produce the greatest increase. This study suggests that authors, advertisers and publishers can significantly boost their effectiveness through an independent validation and by guaranteeing the truthfulness of their claims. This potential can pave the way for market mechanisms that reward truth-telling and improved tools for filtering information based on information credibility.
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