Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2021

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair

Kara Gabriel

Second Committee Member

Sara Bender

Third Committee Member

Ralf Greenwald

Fourth Committee Member

Susan Lonborg


Research on the use of online information has suggested that general users of the internet do not critically evaluate the information they consume. In addition, specific elements of online information, such as the presence of advertisements, has been shown to affect perceptions of that information, resulting in less favorable ratings of websites. In contrast, communication studies have shown that perceptions of the presented information increased favorably when an image of a brain was included even when the actual information was considered insufficient in quality by experts. To date, the combined effects of brain images and advertisements on evaluations of online mental health information have not been studied. In the current study, participants from Central Washington University and the general public were randomly assigned to view a neuroimage, an advertisement, both a neuroimage and advertisement, or no neuroimage or advertisement along with an article from a website discussing the neuroscience underlying depression. I hypothesized that participants would rate the presented webpage and its information more favorably when a neuroimage was present and less favorably when an advertisement was present. Contrary to expectations, participants in this study rated the webpage higher when there was no neuroimage present, compared to when there was a neuroimage present. Specifically, participants rated their ability to identify with the webpage information and the presentation of the webpage’s information higher when there was no neuroimage present. Participant responses were also influenced by their perceptions of sharing mental health experiences online, how many hours on average they spent online daily, and whether they were currently experiencing symptoms of depression. The current findings demonstrate that investigations of the perception of online information is not only complex, but that there is a need for more research on how website variables affect people’s perceptions of online mental health information.