On the Internet, laypersons have a wide range of opportunities to gather sciencerelated information. In this context, science blogs have become an increasingly relevant source for laypersons (Brossard, 2013). These sites with user-generated content may offer further insights on specific topics but may also include statements which do not reflect scientific results accurately. Against this background, it has to be asked to what extent laypersons are affected by reading science blog articles. Specifically, this research investigated the effects of different depictions of scientific uncertainty (ranging from one-sided and assertive statements to a more balanced and two-sided version) on readers’ attitudes.Furthermore, based on the elaboration likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986), it was analyzed whether the persuasive effects depended on readers’ need for cognition and their epistemological beliefs and whether source information interacts with text type. In experiment 1 (addressed to parents of minors / N = 82), a blog article about effects of computer games on children was presented in four different versions: Each version contained three arguments focusing on negative effects that were either phrased neutrally, contained assertive statements, or included hedging. The fourth version contained an additional argument on positive effects of computer games (two-sided information). Results showed that the twosided text led to a more optimistic view on media usage, while the neutral onesided version strengthened negative attitudes. However, the assertive version was less effective, indicating that recipients were skeptical when statements were presented as too simple. Moderation analyses showed that recipients with sophisticated epistemological beliefs were affected more strongly by a two-sided presentation of evidence, whereas readers with naïve beliefs rather ignored the conflicting information. In a second experiment (N = 120 parents), information on the blog author (expert vs. layperson) was varied as a further factor. Here, experts’ texts were generally evaluated as more credible, while laypersons’ texts were perceived as particularly unreliable when the argumentation was one-sided. In contrast, experts were “allowed” to present simple articles. However, with regard to attitude formation, source expertise did not exert effects. Implications for the application of the ELM and the practice of science communication will be discussed.

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When science bloggers persuade the audience
Effects of message sidedness, author expertise, and reader characteristics on attitudes toward scientific topics

Stephan Winter   University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Leonie Rösner   University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

German Neubaum   University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Nicole Krämer   University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Carolin Straßmann   University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

On the Internet, laypersons have a wide range of opportunities to gather sciencerelated information. In this context, science blogs have become an increasingly relevant source for laypersons (Brossard, 2013). These sites with user-generated content may offer further insights on specific topics but may also include statements which do not reflect scientific results accurately. Against this background, it has to be asked to what extent laypersons are affected by reading science blog articles. Specifically, this research investigated the effects of different depictions of scientific uncertainty (ranging from one-sided and assertive statements to a more balanced and two-sided version) on readers’ attitudes.Furthermore, based on the elaboration likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986), it was analyzed whether the persuasive effects depended on readers’ need for cognition and their epistemological beliefs and whether source information interacts with text type. In experiment 1 (addressed to parents of minors / N = 82), a blog article about effects of computer games on children was presented in four different versions: Each version contained three arguments focusing on negative effects that were either phrased neutrally, contained assertive statements, or included hedging. The fourth version contained an additional argument on positive effects of computer games (two-sided information). Results showed that the twosided text led to a more optimistic view on media usage, while the neutral onesided version strengthened negative attitudes. However, the assertive version was less effective, indicating that recipients were skeptical when statements were presented as too simple. Moderation analyses showed that recipients with sophisticated epistemological beliefs were affected more strongly by a two-sided presentation of evidence, whereas readers with naïve beliefs rather ignored the conflicting information. In a second experiment (N = 120 parents), information on the blog author (expert vs. layperson) was varied as a further factor. Here, experts’ texts were generally evaluated as more credible, while laypersons’ texts were perceived as particularly unreliable when the argumentation was one-sided. In contrast, experts were “allowed” to present simple articles. However, with regard to attitude formation, source expertise did not exert effects. Implications for the application of the ELM and the practice of science communication will be discussed.

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