Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Authority Cues and Perceived Credibility of Messages Involving Information About Covid-19 Vaccine

Student Researcher(s)

Michael Ottomano (B.A. Candidate); Taiz Luciano (B.A. Candidate); Matthew Lieberman (B.A. Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project as part of the "COMM 418: Media Effects: Theory and Research" course.


The purpose of this study was to further understand the effect that authority cues and content had on perceived message credibility when dealing with information regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. Theories that are explored through this study include the Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion, the MAIN model and confirmation bias and how they relate to such a salient topic such as Covid-19. Our Research question was “For twitter users, what is the effect of Authority Cues (IV) and Content (IV) on perceived message credibility (DV). Our hypotheses predicted that the presence of authority cues would lead to higher perceived credibility and intention to receive the vaccine (H1), as well as predicting that pro-vaccine messages will have higher rated credibility and intentions of receiving vaccine compared to anti-vaccine messages (H2). We also created a two-part hypothesis that predicted participants would identify to the message that aligned with their pre-existing views more than the message that did not (H3A&B). We performed a 2X2 experiment by manipulating authority cues and authors on specific tweets in favor or against the covid-19 vaccine. Participants were shown one of four tweets: High authority in favor of vaccine, high authority against, layperson in favor of the vaccine and layperson against. We then measured feeling of perceived message credibility through combined variables that measured Trust, Expertise, Message Quality and Message Credibility along with another measure that looked at the participants intention to receive the vaccine after the stimuli. Results showed no support for H1, mainly supported H2 and partially supported H3A&B as authority cues were not the reason for high credibility, but content was. H3 was partially supported because we found that individuals agreed with the content they thought was true before the stimuli was shown. Overall, strong effects on perceived credibility were caused by content as pro-vaccine messages were found to be more credible than anti-vaccine messages. We did find strong links to confirmation bias through our partial support for H3. 




For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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