Charles C. Self Texas A&M University
Credibility is an intuitive concept. Each of us believes some sources of information more than others, some institutional sources of information more than others. Perhaps this is why scholarly examination of source credibility is among the oldest lines communication study, originating with the ancient Greeks (see McCroskey & Richmond , chapter 15, this volume). But its intuitive quality obscures its underlying complexity. The literature on credibility is plentiful, contradictory, and confused. It taps into core theories of rhetoric, persuasion, interpersonal communication, and mass communication. The concept of credibility is based on fundamental differences in the presupposition made by conflicting concepts of communication itself.
Credibility has been defined as believability, trust, perceived reliability, and dozens of other concepts and combinations of them ( Burgoon, Burgoon, & Wilkinson, 1981; Greenberg & Roloff, 1974; Shaw, 1976). It has been defined in terms of the credulity of those trusting; the characteristics of the presenter, the presenting organization or medium, and the information or message offered; and the circumstances under which the message is being perceived. It also has been defined in terms of the recipient of the message, the characteristics of the social setting within which the communication takes place, and the underlying perceived dimensions of communication.