Personalized online health information is better remembered by older adults, but not by young adults

Published on March 21 2017 – Prior research has shown that personalized health content is more effective than general information, but effects are small. To personalize online health information even better to the recipients’ characteristics and preferences, Hao Nguyen investigated whether tailoring the way information is being presented is a useful addition to personalized communication, and whether these effects differed between younger and older adults.

Together with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam and the Academic Medical Center, Hao Nguyen conducted an experiment among 559 individuals. Participants who received personalized health information, were given a website where they could self-select how they would like to receive the information: through text, illustrations, video, or a combination of these methods. The other participants received a standard website without the option to make adjustments.

The results showed that older adults (65+) paid more attention to the health information when they had personalized how they wanted to receive the information. Consequently, these older adults also recalled more information from the health website. These effects were not found for standardized, non-personalized information. For younger adults, the results were exactly the opposite. Younger adults (25-45 years) were more likely to remember information from health websites with only text or text with illustrations. Personalizing the mode of information presentation seems to be particularly effective for older adults, but could be counterproductive for younger adults.

This study was financed by the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF).

Read more? Nguyen, M. H., Van Weert, J. C. M., Bol, N., Loos, E. F., Tytgat, K. M. A. J., Van De Ven, A. W. H., & Smets, E. M A. (2016). Tailoring the mode of information presentation: Effects on younger and older adults’ attention and recall of online information. Human Communication Research, 43(1), 102-126. doi:10.1111/hcre.12097

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