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When evaluating information online or offline, two important aspects are considered by readers: the credibility of the source and the quality of the argument. It is well known that strong arguments are more persuasive than weak arguments of the same length (Petty and Cacioppo, 1984), and recent research has shown that in an online environment source credibility is determined by the reader in part by the design aspects of website (Lowry et al., 2013). Using a 2 (website quality: good vs bad) x 2 (argument quality: strong vs weak) ANCOVA with need for cognition (NFC) and disposition to trust as covariates, I examined which aspects are most important to individuals when evaluating the information found on a website. We observed an interaction between website quality and argument quality, which was moderated by NFC, such that individuals with higher NFC seem to care about the quality of the arguments when evaluating them, whereas those with lower NFC seem to care more about the design of the website. These results demonstrate that assessment of information in an online context occurs differently depending on an individual’s NFC.


Faculty Advisor, Allison Young-Reusser. Honors Cohort 7. Graduation date 2017.

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