Talking health with a machine: How does message interactivity affect attitudes and cognitions?
By affording interactive communication and natural, human-like conversations, can media tools affect the way we engage with content in human–machine interactions and influence our attitudes toward that content? A between-subjects experiment (N = 172) examined the effects of two communication variables: (a) message-interactivity and (b) conversational tone, in an online health information (Q&A) tool. Findings suggest that informal conversational tone lowers perceptions of relative susceptibility to health risks. Perceived contingency positively mediates the influence of message interactivity on individuals' health attitudes and behavioral intentions whereas perceived interactivity negatively mediates the relationships between these variables. These contrasting mediation effects are further explored via a phantom model analysis that tests two theoretically distinct paths, with implications for both theory and practice.