The Influence of Online Cues and Warranting Value on Impression Formation
Lane, Brianna L
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Warranting theory was developed as a means to understand how individuals judge whether online information is reliable and valid and how those judgments influence their impressions (DeAndrea, 2014; Walther, 2011). Information that is immune to manipulation by the person to whom the information refers has warranting value. The more warranting value information has, the greater influence it will have on impressions. Previous research has shown that online cues influence impression formation (e.g. Tong, Van Der Heide, Langwell, & Walther, 2008; Walther, Van Der Heide, Hamel, & Shulman, 2009; Walther, Van Der Heide, Kim, Westerman, & Tong, 2008). However, warranting value, theorized to mediate the relationship between cues and impressions, has only been hypothesized but not tested empirically. This dissertation conceptualizes warranting theory as a Brunswik lens model in which individuals observe online cues, make a judgment about the warranting value of those cues, and then form impressions based on their warranting value judgment. An experiment was conducted in which participants (N = 209) were randomly assigned to view a hypothetical website similar to RateMyProfessors.com. The presence of aggregated data, the number of reviewers, the identifiability of the reviewer, and the presence of comments on the reviews were manipulated. Results of a structural equation model revealed that specific cues did not influence judgments of warranting value which indicates that the warranting process may not function as a Brunswik lens model. Results offer support for warranting theory, in that judgments of warranting value influenced impressions.
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