Human Cues in Self-help Lifestyle Interventions: an Experimental Field Study

Item Type Journal paper
Abstract Background: Self-help eHealth interventions are generally less effective than human-supported ones, as they suffer from a low level of adherence. Nevertheless, self-help interventions are useful in the prevention of non-communicable diseases, as they are easier and cheaper to widely implement. Adding humanness in the form of a text-based conversational agent (TCA) could provide a solution to non-adherence. In this study we investigate whether adding human cues to a TCA facilitates relationship-building with the agent, and makes interventions more attractive for people to adhere to. We will investigate the effects of two types of human cues, which are visual cues (eg, human avatar) and relational cues (eg, showing empathy). Objective: We aim to investigate if adding human cues to a TCA can help increase adherence to a self-help eHealth lifestyle intervention and explore the role of working alliance as a possible mediator of this relationship. Methods: Participants (N=121) followed a 3-week app-based physical activity intervention delivered by a TCA. Two types of human cues used by the TCA were manipulated, resulting in four experimental groups, which were (1) visual cues-group, (2) relational cues-group, (3) both visual and relational cues-group, and (4) no cues-group. Participants filled out the Working Alliance Inventory Short Revised form after the final day of the intervention. Adherence was measured as number of days participants responded to the messages of the TCA. Results: One-way ANOVA revealed a significant difference for adherence between conditions. Against our expectations, the groups with visual cues showed lower adherence compared to those with relational only or no cues (t(117) = -3.415, P = .001). No significant difference was found between the relational- and no cues-groups. Working alliance was not affected by cue-type, but showed to have a significant positive relationship with adherence (t(75) = 4.136, P < .001). Conclusions: We hypothesize that the negative effect of visual cues is due to a lack of transparency about the true nature of the coach. Visual resemblance of a human coach could have led to high expectations that could not be met by our digital coach. Furthermore, the inability of TCAs to use non-verbal communication could provide an explanation for the lack of effect of relational cues or the effect of cue-type on working alliance. We give suggestions for future studies to test these potential mechanisms. Clinical Trial: Pre-registration: OSF Registries, https://osf.io/mgw2s
Authors Cohen Rodrigues, Talia; Reijnders, Thomas; de Buisonjé, David; Santhanam, Prabhakaran; Kowatsch, Tobias; Janssen, Veronica; Kraaijenhagen, Roderik; Atsma, Douwe & Evers, Andrea
Journal or Publication Title Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Preprints
Language English
Keywords digital health intervention, chatbot, conversational agent, lifestyle
Subjects computer science
information management
social sciences
health sciences
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
HSG Profile Area SoM - Business Innovation
Refereed No
Date 29 April 2021
Publisher JMIR Publications
Number 29/04/2021:30057
Publisher DOI https://doi.org/10.2196/preprints.30057
Official URL https://doi.org/10.2196/preprints.30057
Depositing User Prof. Dr. Tobias Kowatsch
Date Deposited 16 May 2021 09:54
Last Modified 20 Jul 2022 17:45
URI: https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/publications/263166

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Cohen Rodrigues, Talia; Reijnders, Thomas; de Buisonjé, David; Santhanam, Prabhakaran; Kowatsch, Tobias; Janssen, Veronica; Kraaijenhagen, Roderik; Atsma, Douwe & Evers, Andrea (2021) Human Cues in Self-help Lifestyle Interventions: an Experimental Field Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Preprints, (29/04/2021:30057).

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https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/id/eprint/263166
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