In this study we examined the influence of attitude strength on the processing and evaluation of sources and information on the Web. Seventy-nine German university students participated in an eye-tracking study in which they read information from eight pre-selected websites from different sources on the controversial topic of organic foods. Results showed that participants who felt strongly about the topic (i.e., those with strong prior attitude strength) scrutinized website logos of attitude-inconsistent websites shorter and judged the credibility of attitude-inconsistent websites lower. They also included more attitude-consistent information in an essay task than participants with weaker prior attitudes. Participants who felt less strongly about the topic (i.e., those with weaker prior attitudes) fixated longer on text from attitude-inconsistent websites than from attitude-consistent websites. By contrast, for participants with strong prior attitudes the time spent on the texts from attitude-consistent websites and attitude- inconsistent websites did not differ significantly. The results show that prior attitudes can bias evaluation and processing of information in different ways. Even though participants were not fully biased during initial information processing, they were so when evaluating the information and presenting it in an essay task.
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