The Truth-Default and Video Clips: Testing the Limits of Credulity

Timothy R. Levine, Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter, Alivia Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Truth-default theory posits that absent a trigger, people passively accept communication content as truthful and honest. Most often, the idea that some communication might be deceptive does not come to mind. The current research exposed participants to one of six video clips that varied in credibility and credulity. The clips included educational lectures, political speeches, an investigative news report, and an over-the-top satirical investigative news report. Participants completed a thought-listing task about the video they watched. Automated word searches for deception-relevant terms were used to assess the frequency of expressions of skepticism and attributions of deception. Consistent with strong truth-default predictions, except for the satirical video, little evidence of incredulity was observed. The results suggest that the truth-default holds for a variety of online video content, but also that it has its limits. Extreme implausibility most often, but not always, overcomes the truth-default.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Credibility
  • credulity
  • deception
  • honesty
  • implausibility
  • truth-default theory


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