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Master's Thesis

The Criteria Used in the Research

The criteria that were chosen to be included in the survey needed to be easily comprehendible by the average survey-taker. From Heylighen’s list, six criteria were chosen. These criteria are novelty, simplicity, danger, benefit, authority and replication pressure. In the introduction to the survey each of these criteria were described to give the survey-taker an insight on the meaning of each criterion.

The descriptions of the criteria were repeated with every question in the survey, with the extra information of the values that could be entered for the criterion (a scale from one to five).

For example: “How easy is it to understand this message? Is it hard to grasp or is it pretty clear and simple? (1: Very Hard / 5: Very Easy)”

The criterion ‘novelty’ was renamed in the online survey as ‘originality’ this was done in order to avoid a misunderstanding or confusion with the concept ‘new’.

Simplicity was not changed. Although dependant of the previous knowledge of the survey-taker this is a criterion that can easily be scored. The different background of the participants is compensated by the fact that each survey taker will score all hoaxes with the same previous knowledge.

The two criteria danger and benefit are both sub-criteria from what Heylighen called utility. By separating these two it can be verified whether or not one of these two is more important.

The authority selection criterion should be one of the least important criteria in this survey. All of these hoaxes will arrive by email from a known source, so it is questionable if the receiver of the email will try to find an authority source within the meme, other than the sender of the email. Nevertheless, for this research it is useful to check for the correlation between the authority of the hoax itself as well although it has to be kept in mind that the original authority (from the sender of the email) is not present in this survey.

The criterion of replication pressure or proselytism can logically be considered one of the most important ones in the spreading of the hoax. It is this criterion which will try to influence the receiver of the hoax to spread it. However, it is likely that a too high replication pressure will not lead to a higher replication rate but to a ridicule of the hoax. A hoax that consists only of ‘please pass me on’ messages may not be passed on due to the lack of content because people simply do not take it seriously (Hofstadter 52-53).

©2006 Klaas Chielens