The psychology of online news evaluation: How interactivity and negative emotions drive credibility assessment
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Given the growing reliance on online news and complexity of different forms of digital news, news consumers might be confused as to which sources of news are credible providers of reliable information. Indeed, some digitally native media such as the Huffington Post now boast a larger online readership than traditional sources of news. In this light, it is critical to investigate how media users evaluate the credibility of digitally native media compared to legacy media news sites. Although online news credibility research has incorporated measures of interactivity, a distinguishing attribute of online news, thus far little research has been conducted to explain the psychological processes behind online media evaluation. For this study, a within-subjects experiment was conducted and serial mediation analysis run using perceived interactivity and negative emotion as key variables predicting news evaluation. Two multiple mediator models were analyzed to investigate the serial routes of online news evaluation through perceived interactivity and negative emotions. Results indicate that perceived interactivity effects are not direct, but that the experience of negative emotion mediates the relationship between perceived interactivity and media credibility, especially for digitally native media. The implications of multiple mediator analysis are discussed in the conclusion and suggestions are made for future research.