Readers' Reliance on Source Credibility in the Service of Comprehension

Jesse R. Sparks*, David N. Rapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The current project examined the impact of knowledge about the credibility of sources on readers' processing of texts. Participants read texts in which information about characters was provided by either a credible or a noncredible source; this information suggested that the character potentially possessed a particular trait. A subsequent text episode offered the opportunity for participants to apply any inferred trait to their understanding of unfolding story events. In Experiment 1, participants' moment-by-moment reading times indicated strong expectations for characters to behave in trait-consistent ways, with little effect of credibility on those expectations. Experiments 2 and 3 provided participants with additional encouragement to attend to credibility during reading, but these experiments also revealed little influence of credibility. In Experiment 4, in addition to being given added encouragement, participants were explicitly asked to evaluate the likelihood of future text events; under these conditions, expectations for story outcomes were influenced by the credibility of information sources. This influence was mediated by the degree to which participants self-reported relying on credibility during the task. These findings have implications for contemporary accounts of text comprehension, persuasion, and individual differences in credibility assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-247
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Critical thinking
  • Discourse processing
  • Reading
  • Source credibility
  • Text comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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