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No AccessTrust In Doubt: Consuming in a Post-Truth World

Consuming Information from Sources Perceived as Biased versus Untrustworthy: Parallel and Distinct Influences

Laura E. Wallace ([email protected]) is a postdoctoral researcher, Duane T. Wegener ([email protected]) is a professor, and Richard E. Petty ([email protected]) is a professor, all in the Department of Psychology at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (DGE-1343012). Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laura Wallace, 1835 Neil Avenue, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

Consumer research has examined whether perceptions of ulterior motives behind marketing result in greater consumer skepticism and reduced persuasion. Yet skepticism could stem from perceiving a message source as untrustworthy or as biased. The possibility of source bias has been relatively overlooked or conflated with untrustworthiness. Yet recent research has demonstrated that consumers perceive source bias and untrustworthiness differently. Sources are viewed as biased when they have a skewed perception but as untrustworthy when they are dishonest. Bias and untrustworthiness can serve as independent reasons to view a source as lacking credibility and thus can undermine persuasiveness. However, when sources switch positions, perceived bias and untrustworthiness can have different influences on surprise and different downstream consequences for the persuasiveness of the new message. Unique and common antecedents of bias versus untrustworthiness are discussed, as well as implications for consumer research.