Spelling errors and shouting capitalization lead to additive penalties to trustworthiness of online health information: randomized experiment with laypersons

Witchel, Harry J, Thompson, Georgina A, Jones, Christopher I, Westling, Carina E I, Romero, Juan, Nicotra, Alessia, Maag, Bruno and Critchley, Hugo D (2020) Spelling errors and shouting capitalization lead to additive penalties to trustworthiness of online health information: randomized experiment with laypersons. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22 (6). a15171 1-14. ISSN 1439-4456

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to SRO admin only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (419kB)
[img] PDF - Published Version
Restricted to SRO admin only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (534kB)
[img] PDF (This is a corrected version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (535kB)

Abstract

Background: The written format and literacy competence of screen-based texts can interfere with the perceived trustworthiness of health information in online forums, independent of the semantic content. Unlike in professional content, the format in unmoderated forums can regularly hint at incivility, perceived as deliberate rudeness or casual disregard toward the reader, for example, through spelling errors and unnecessary emphatic capitalization of whole words (online shouting).

Objective: This study aimed to quantify the comparative effects of spelling errors and inappropriate capitalization on ratings of trustworthiness independently of lay insight and to determine whether these changes act synergistically or additively on the ratings.

Methods: In web-based experiments, 301 UK-recruited participants rated 36 randomized short stimulus excerpts (in the format of information from an unmoderated health forum about multiple sclerosis) for trustworthiness using a semantic differential slider. A total of 9 control excerpts were compared with matching error-containing excerpts. Each matching error-containing excerpt included 5 instances of misspelling, or 5 instances of inappropriate capitalization (shouting), or a combination of 5 misspelling plus 5 inappropriate capitalization errors. Data were analyzed in a linear mixed effects model.

Results: The mean trustworthiness ratings of the control excerpts ranged from 32.59 to 62.31 (rating scale 0-100). Compared with the control excerpts, excerpts containing only misspellings were rated as being 8.86 points less trustworthy, those containing inappropriate capitalization were rated as 6.41 points less trustworthy, and those containing the combination of misspelling and capitalization were rated as 14.33 points less trustworthy (P<.001 for all). Misspelling and inappropriate capitalization show an additive effect.

Conclusions: Distinct indicators of incivility independently and additively penalize the perceived trustworthiness of online text independently of lay insight, eliciting a medium effect size.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Neuroscience
Depositing User: Harry Witchel
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2020 08:30
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2021 11:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/89854

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update