The Persuasive Communication programme group addresses communication that is intended to achieve specific persuasive goals, as is the case in, for instance, marketing communication, health education, and public information campaigns.
The research is aimed at understanding the dynamics that shape uses and effects of mediated persuasive communication. We study factors that explain individuals' selective attention to and their processing of campaigns, as well as factors that contribute to cognitive, emotional, and behavioral persuasion effects.
Research within this program comprises a variety of aspects that shape the effects of persuasive communication: personality aspects, situational factors, medium-related factors, message content, and the process of persuasion itself. Three lines of research are proposed, having as a common denominator the aim to study effects of persuasive communication in a time where messages are integrated in media content, customized to meet the audience's interests, and where content is increasingly user-determined.
The first research line is the intertwining of media content and persuasion. In brand placement, for instance, messages are placed in regular TV programs or games. Another field where persuasive messages are integrated is entertainment education. Here the media content is especially produced to carry the persuasive message. Key questions are how people cope with entertainment persuasion, whether they notice these messages, and what are intended and unintended consequences of these ixtures of persuasive messages and media content? These questions are to be addressed from different angles, from an individual psychological perspective, from a developmental perspective as well as from a marketing perspective. In addition, this research area calls for explicit as well as implicit measurement techniques to be able to determine the full range of possible effects of these subtle forms of persuasive communication.
The third line deals with the increased empowerment of individuals in society. New research is developed to study the impact of interpersonal communication in the success of health campaigns. Interpersonal communication is also studied within social media, for instance in studying review websites and other forms of electronic Worth-of-Mouth (eWOM), and in actively engaging with brands on the Internet.
The second research line takes a starting point in new interactive media and the many opportunities they create for customizing information based on user data. Customization strategies based on personal or preference data are increasingly being applied in newsletters, campaign materials and business media in order to raise attention and to gratify specific information needs. Although current technology makes obtaining personal information easier, we lack a true understanding of the effects of such personalized communication. A key objective is to gain a detailed understanding of the effects of customized communication in two applied fields of persuasive communication: Within health communication where information is tailored to the information needs of patients, and within marketing communications where information is being customized according to characteristics of customers, their interests or, in the case of online communication, their previous clicking on internet pages. Not only persuasion effects are studied here, but also privacy issues are taken into account.
Chatbots or conversational agents are reshaping our communication environment. In the shape of always-on personal virtual assistants, they are making their way to our lives, might it be to our media, our phones, tablets and computers, and our homes. In this new communication environment, chatbots have the potential to inform and persuade in new and effective ways.
In this light, this PhD project investigates how the chatbots’ communicative characteristics influence, over time, the human-chatbot interaction and persuasion outcomes. The theoretical focus of the project are the intended as well as unintended persuasive consequences associated with chatbots, communicating in a conversational manner, using social and/or persuasive cues and displaying human-like behaviour. Furthermore, it explores the relationship-building to (non-human) entities over time. Importantly, the project has an explicit emphasis on method development on how to integrate conversational agents in communication research.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity has risen steeply over the last decades, and research shows that media use is a major contributor to the rising numbers of overweight and obesity.
This four-year project explores how media use influences unhealthy food intake by focusing on the effects of media content (i.e., images of tempting foods in media), and media use goals (i.e., hedonic versus information oriented media uses) on hedonic eating goal activation (i.e., the desire to consume palatable foods) and subsequent food intake. In addition, the influence of dietary restraint and self-regulatory success in this relationship will be assessed.
In the final phase of the project an intervention that aims to reduce unhealthy food consumption during media use will be developed and tested. This intervention will be tailored to the specific television programs or food commercials that trigger impulsive unhealthy eating in an individual.
In this PhD project it is investigated how implementing an online patient-directed tool can influence the processing, understanding and recall of health messages aimed at older cancer patients.
First, in an experiment it will be studied how online health information should be presented to older cancer patients to increase motivation to process the information, understanding of the information and recall of the information. Based on the outcomes of this study an online patient-directed tool will be developed.
In a randomized controlled trial, the effectiveness of exposure to a patient-directed web tool that is tailored to older colorectal cancer patients, compared to exposure to a standard website will be investigated. Effectiveness will be measured in terms of the patients’ (i.e.) evaluation of the communication, understanding of the information provided and recall of the information provided. In addition, underlying processes will be taken into account and differences between older (≥ 70 year) and younger (< 70 year) patients due to age-related factors will be studied.
Ultimately, the aim is to provide guidance for optimizing online patient-directed tools aimed at older cancer patients.
The aim of the PhD project is to understand how the effects of health interventions are mediated or moderated by interpersonal communication.
To this end, we examine how teachers communicate about the health intervention with students, how students communicate with classmates and respond to the communication of their teacher, and how the effects of the health intervention depend on interpersonal communication by teachers and students.
Another aim of the project is to improve the health intervention based on the knowledge of content of interpersonal communication.
Augmented Reality applications allow people to see the real world through a virtual overlay. Augmented Reality applications are poised to transform persuasion as we know it and are expected to be more persuasive than conventional advertising due to their interactivity, vividness, realism and personalization opportunities. This PhD project examines how Augmented Reality transforms consumers’ persuasion process. Specifically, the antecedents and consequences of using Augmented Reality apps are studied in both an informational and entertaining context.
A healthy lifestyle consisting of a healthy diet and sufficient physical activity can reduce cardiometabolic risk. People with a low socio-economic status (SES) often have a less healthy lifestyle compared to those with higher SES. However, interventions aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle often poorly reach this low SES target group. In the Supreme Nudge project, the opportunities for facilitating healthy lifestyle behaviours of low SES adults are investigated.
Targeting and changing the environment in which health behaviour choices are made can significantly help to promote a healthy lifestyle and reach various target groups. In the Supreme Nudge project, a supermarket-based intervention will be investigated in which the supermarket environment includes ‘nudges’ (small environmental encouragements) and pricing strategies in such a way that healthy food choice becomes easier and more natural.
As an additional intervention component, this PhD project aims to develop and test a mobile application that is able to provide direct feedback on physical activity behaviours. First, the barriers and facilitators of mobile app usage in the low SES target group will be investigated. Next, a dynamically tailored mobile application that is able to provide personalised time- and context-specific feedback to encourage users to make healthy physical activity choices will be developed. The effects of this integrated approach on dietary behaviours, physical activity and cardiometabolic risk factors will be investigated.
Evidence shows that tailoring message content, by means of personalizing message content to promote healthy behaviours, can lead to positive health effects. However, little knowledge exists about the effects of health messages, when messages frames are tailored according to individuals’ preferences for the message frame format. Earlier research showed that the use of non-controlling language and offering choice supports feelings of perceived autonomy and accordingly enhance people’s motivation to perform behaviour in young adults.
This PhD project aims to increase the effects of message frame tailoring in online smoking cessation communication for motivated smoking quitters on cessation rates. First, the most autonomy-supportive message frame for smoking cessation messages will be researched. Then, this knowledge will be used to develop a user friendly online smoking cessation intervention. In the last phase of the project, the (cost-) effectiveness of the developed intervention will be studied in a randomized controlled trial.
By means of offering smokers tailored online quit aids, this study can contribute to a public health aim of decreasing smoking rates.
An increasing amount of cancer patients visit the Internet for information and use online communities. However, robust evidence on what patients seek and how these online activities affect patient-provider communication during consultations is lacking. In my four-year PhD project I will use a combination of innovative methods (i.e., combining automatic content analysis and supervised machine learning with survey research) in order to create insights in what content is used by patients, how online interaction occurs as well as how seeking behaviour can be explained. Next, a role-played consultation with patients will put these insights into the setting of the medical consultation. This way, the beneficial or detrimental effects of using online health information prior to consultation on patient outcomes can be studied.
In this project the persuasive effects of visual social media posts on other consumers will be explored. Research insights developed in data science machine vision and communication science will be bridged.