Date of Award

Spring 1999

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Griffin, Robert

Second Advisor

Frederick, v

Third Advisor

Ksobiech, Kenneth

Abstract

This study investigates how the presentation of letters to the editor affect credibility assessments made by readers of those letters. By using a cognitive response approach, this paper purports that letters delivered anonymously through audiotext systems are deemed as credible as signed, written letters to the editor. Also, this study investigated whether the anonymous letters are more likely to influence readers' thoughts on a given topic than letters that are signed. Involvement, in this study, is used as a control variable. As the feeling of involvement rises, so does the likelihood that letters are seen as credible. Using anonymity and letter format - the way the letter is presented - as independent variables and credibility as the dependent variable, this study shows a person determines whether letters to the editor are credible based on involvement levels rather than the way in which a letter is presented. Using an experimental design involving three experimental groups and a control group, this study exposed respondents to letters that were either written or delivered through a telephone audiotext system and those that were either signed or anonymous. Using a pretest and posttest design, the study determined a person's involvement in issues before being exposed to the stimulus. After exposure, respondents were tested to see if judgments of perceived credibility shifts occurred. Involvement was controlled in the analysis using regression.

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