Three Essays of Consumer Inference Making and Metacognitive Experience in Perceived Information Security

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Virginia Tech


The internet has served as the virtual world since the beginning of the digital era, and it has provided consumers the valuable source of information and become a fundamental basis of e-commerce by passing the limit of time and distance of offline stores. It is hard to imagine our life without the internet. Because consumers store and access their private and financial information on the internet, information security is even more important than ever. Although many studies demonstrate the importance of information security to consumers, researchers have paid little attention to consumers' inference processing underlying their perceptions of information security. We investigate how consumers infer and evaluate online information security based on consumer inference making process and metacognitive experience. We argue that consumers' perceived security could be enhanced by simply increasing complexity, even if that increased complexity is meaningless. It is because consumers have a belief that security is achieved by sacrificing convenience or increasing complexity. We demonstrated that consumers evaluated a website more secure when asked to enter redundant information in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 suggested that disfluency and difficulty of retrieval could increase perceived security because metacognitive experience makes consumers misattribute their feeling of difficulty to technical difficulty. We found that the positive effect of disfluency was held when a product was not security-related. In Chapter 3, we focused on how to improve the accuracy of security judgments. We found that perceived security enhanced by meaningless complexity would be adjusted by asking specific dimensions of security (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability), and the positive impact of a disfluency effect could be debiased by providing participants the true source of their subjective difficulty. Furthermore, we demonstrated that consumers' interpretation about accessibility experience varied depending on what kind of naïve theory was activated. Through a series of experiments, we demonstrated our arguments were valid and these results provided useful insights and implications about consumers' inference processing and perception of information security.



Information Security, Perceived Security, Inference Making, Metacognitive Experience, Fluency, Debias