Reference blindness: The influence of references on trust in Wikipedia

Lucassen, T., Noordzij, M. L., & Schraagen, J. M. (2011). Reference blindness: The influence of references on trust in Wikipedia. In ACM WebSci ’11.

In this study we show the influence of references on trust in information. We changed the contents of reference lists of Wikipedia articles in such a way that the new references were no longer in any sense related to the topic of the arti- cle. Furthermore, the length of the reference list was varied. College students were asked to evaluate the credibility of these articles. Only 6 out of 23 students noticed the manipulation of the references; 9 out of 23 students noticed the variations in length. These numbers are remarkably low, as 17 students indicated they considered references an important indicator of credibility. The findings suggest a highly heuristic manner of credibility evaluation. Systematic evaluation behavior was also observed in the experiment, but only of participants with low trust in Wikipedia in general.

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