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The Anonymity Effect: The Influence of Anonymity on Perceptions of Sources and Information on Health Websites

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The study reported here examined the influence of anonymous sources on health websites on the perceptions and attitudes of information seekers. It was hypothesized that, despite the warnings and guidelines established by health organizations, anonymous sources would be perceived to be as credible and influential as sources that were identified. The anonymity effect, drawn from the similarity principle in attribution theory, was forwarded as a theoretical mechanism to explain responses to anonymous sources. The results indicated that anonymous sources were generally perceived by participants to be as credible and influential as identified sources, although the anonymity effect explanation was not supported. The implications of these findings for information seekers and health practitioners are considered.
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Keywords: Anonymity; Anonymous Communication; E-health; Health Information Seeking; Internet; Source Credibility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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