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Effects of User Control and Perceived Message Tailoring on Responses to a Health Web Site
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Effects of User Control and Perceived Message Tailoring on Responses to a Health Web Site Abstract Interactive features of computer-based media can enable users to obtain information that is personally relevant to them. In this study we investigate two ways users can acquire personally relevant health information, through user control, where the user of a computer-based medium such as the Internet can link to information that appears to be personally relevant, and perceived message tailoring, where the computer system seems to select and present relevant information on the basis of the user’s previous responses. The study draws from theories of information processing and attitude change, human-computer interaction, and interpersonal communication. It finds that user control and perceived message tailoring—two features we consider to be components of the broader concept of interactivity—can increase the likelihood that users will consider web-delivered information to be desirable, high quality, and informative. People are more likely to process information deeply, attentively, and thoughtfully if they perceive it to be personally relevant. This phenomenon has been well documented in attitude-change research testing the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacciopo, 1981) and the closely related Heuristic-Systematic Model (see Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, and Tesser & Shaffer, 1990, for a discussion of both models), where the effects of perceived personal relevance on motivation, attention, involvement, and depth of information processing are the central focus. When information is perceived to be personally relevant, people have a strong desire to gain confidence in the validity of the information, so they think about it more deeply and carefully (Maheswaran & Chaiken, 1991). People are more likely to regard personally relevant information as interesting, pay attention to it, thoughtfully consider it, relate it to other information they have encountered in the past, and think about it in the context of their own experiences (Brug, Glanz, Van Assema, Kok, & Van Breukelen, 1998; Kreuter, Farrell, Olevitch, & Brennan, 2000; Petty, Cacciopo, Strathman, & Priester, 1994). They also tend to pay special attention to the strength or weakness of persuasive arguments that are personally relevant, so they can judge the quality of the evidence (Stiff, 1994). By deeply processing and elaborating messages in these ways, they are more likely to remember the messages, to have confidence in the messages they accept, and to use them when forming or changing their attitudes and behaviors. Interactivity and perceived interactivity. Both user control and perceived message tailoring are components of the broader concept of interactivity, which has been defined and empirically tested in various ways (Burgoon et al., 2002; Rafaeli, 1988; Rafaeli, 1990). Some have investigated effects of interactivity in terms of the level of user control afforded over the navigation and selection of content (Williams, Rice, & Rogers, 1988) or the level of feedback between message sender and receiver (Newhagen & Cordes, 1995). Others count the interactive features, such as number of feedback channels, or whether there is access to e-mail, and consider the level of interactivity to be a function of the number of features provided or the number of choices available to the user (Coyle & Thorson, 2001; Sundar, Hesser, Kalyanaraman, & Brown, 1998). Another approach is to see interactivity as the media user’s potential to be both message source and content receiver (December, 1996; Pavlik, 1996). Defining interactivity in terms of the level of user control or feedback, or the number of component dimensions does not capture the dynamic, conversational process of interacting with a medium that can

Authors: Lieberman, Debra., Lingsweiler, Ryan., Yao, Mike. and Chesler, Zachary.
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1
Effects of User Control and Perceived Message Tailoring on
Responses to a Health Web Site
Abstract
Interactive features of computer-based media can enable users to obtain information that
is personally relevant to them. In this study we investigate two ways users can acquire
personally relevant health information, through user control, where the user of a
computer-based medium such as the Internet can link to information that appears to be
personally relevant, and perceived message tailoring, where the computer system seems
to select and present relevant information on the basis of the user’s previous responses.
The study draws from theories of information processing and attitude change, human-
computer interaction, and interpersonal communication. It finds that user control and
perceived message tailoring—two features we consider to be components of the broader
concept of interactivity—can increase the likelihood that users will consider web-
delivered information to be desirable, high quality, and informative.

People are more likely to process information deeply, attentively, and thoughtfully if they perceive it to be
personally relevant. This phenomenon has been well documented in attitude-change research testing the
Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacciopo, 1981) and the closely related Heuristic-Systematic
Model (see Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, and Tesser & Shaffer, 1990, for a discussion of both models), where
the effects of perceived personal relevance on motivation, attention, involvement, and depth of
information processing are the central focus. When information is perceived to be personally relevant,
people have a strong desire to gain confidence in the validity of the information, so they think about it
more deeply and carefully (Maheswaran & Chaiken, 1991). People are more likely to regard personally
relevant information as interesting, pay attention to it, thoughtfully consider it, relate it to other
information they have encountered in the past, and think about it in the context of their own experiences
(Brug, Glanz, Van Assema, Kok, & Van Breukelen, 1998; Kreuter, Farrell, Olevitch, & Brennan, 2000;
Petty, Cacciopo, Strathman, & Priester, 1994). They also tend to pay special attention to the strength or
weakness of persuasive arguments that are personally relevant, so they can judge the quality of the
evidence (Stiff, 1994). By deeply processing and elaborating messages in these ways, they are more
likely to remember the messages, to have confidence in the messages they accept, and to use them when
forming or changing their attitudes and behaviors.

Interactivity and perceived interactivity. Both user control and perceived message tailoring are
components of the broader concept of interactivity, which has been defined and empirically tested in
various ways (Burgoon et al., 2002; Rafaeli, 1988; Rafaeli, 1990). Some have investigated effects of
interactivity in terms of the level of user control afforded over the navigation and selection of content
(Williams, Rice, & Rogers, 1988) or the level of feedback between message sender and receiver
(Newhagen & Cordes, 1995). Others count the interactive features, such as number of feedback channels,
or whether there is access to e-mail, and consider the level of interactivity to be a function of the number
of features provided or the number of choices available to the user (Coyle & Thorson, 2001; Sundar,
Hesser, Kalyanaraman, & Brown, 1998). Another approach is to see interactivity as the media user’s
potential to be both message source and content receiver (December, 1996; Pavlik, 1996).

Defining interactivity in terms of the level of user control or feedback, or the number of component
dimensions does not capture the dynamic, conversational process of interacting with a medium that can


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