The Effect of the Expressed Anger and Sadness on Online News Believability

Office of Alumni and External Relations    2021-09-26

Subject: The Effect of the Expressed Anger and Sadness on Online News Believability

Guest: Bingjie Deng, PhD candidate, University of Hong Kong

Host: Wei Xuan, Assistant Professor, Antai

Time: Thursday, Sep 30, 2021,  15:30-17:00

Venue: Tecent Meeting (Please send email to for meeting number and password)


Emotional expressions have been widely used in online news. Existing research on the perception of online news has primarily focused on the effect of contextual cues on readers’ reasoning and deliberation behavior; the role of discrete emotions such as anger and sadness, however, has been overlooked. This paper addresses this research gap by investigating the influence of angry and sad expressions in online news on readers’ perception of the news. Drawing on the emotions as social information (EASI) theory and the appraisal-tendency framework (ATF), we find that expressions of anger in online news decrease its believability. However, sad expressions do not trigger the same effect. A further test reveals that the effect of angry expressions can be explained by the readers’ perception of the author’s cognitive effort: readers perceive that expressions of anger in the headlines denote a lack of cognitive effort of the author in writing the news, which subsequently lowers the believability of the news. We also show that news believability has downstream implications and can impact various social media behaviors including reading, liking, commenting, and sharing. This research extends current knowledge of the cognitive appraisals and interpersonal effects of discrete emotions (i.e., anger, sadness) on online news. The results also offer practical implications for social media platforms, news aggregators, and regulators that need to manage digital content and control the spread of fake news.


Bingjie Deng is a PhD candidate in information systems in the Faculty of Business and Economics (HKU Business School) at the University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on the area of consumer information processing, human-computer interaction, social media, and digital innovation. Bingjie received her Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, and Master's degree in economics from The University of Hong Kong.

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