Social Presence and Use of Internet-Delivered Interventions: A Multi-Method Approach

Crutzen, Rik; Cyr, Dianne; Larios, Hector; Ruiter, Robert A. C.; de Vries, Nanne K.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Objective: Internet-delivered interventions can effectively change health risk behaviors and their determinants, but adherence to intervention websites once they are accessed is very low. This study tests whether and how social presence elements can increase website use. Methods: A website about Hepatitis A, B, and C virus infections was used in a preparatory lab-based eye-tracking study assessing whether social presence elements attract participants' attention, because this is a prerequisite for affecting website use. In the following field study, 482 participants representative of the Dutch population were randomized to either a website with or a website without social presence elements. Participants completed a questionnaire of validated measures regarding user perceptions immediately after exposure to the website. Server registrations were used to assess website use. Results: Participants in the experimental condition focused on the social presence elements, both in terms of frequency (F(1, 98) = 40.34, p<.001) and duration (F(1, 88) = 39.99, p<.001), but did not differ in website use in comparison with the control condition; neither in terms of the number of pages visited (t(456) = 1.44, p = .15), nor in terms of time on the website (t(456) = 0.01, p = .99). Conclusions: Adding social presence elements did not affect actual use of an intervention website within a public health context. Possible reasons are limited attention for these elements in comparison with the main text and the utilitarian value of intervention websites.


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