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Open Med Inform J. 2008;2:82-91. doi: 10.2174/1874431100802010082. Epub 2008 May 22.

Can contextualization increase understanding during man-machine communication? A theory-driven study.

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  • 1Clinical Informatics Group, Department of Medical Statistics and Bioinformatics, Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Leiden, The Netherlands.


The Internet offers unlimited possibilities for finding health information. However, the user is often faced with the problem of understanding it. Contextualization has a role to play in enhancing the user's comprehension. We report on a study which addresses this issue, using a theoretical model of communication whose central theme is that of context. A randomized controlled experimental design was chosen, using as a test-bed the website SeniorGezond we had previously developed. The study was composed of a pre-test, the intervention with the website and a post-test. Participants (n=40) were randomly assigned to exposure or no exposure to contextualization with the website. Results show that contextualization increases understanding for non-knowledgeable users. Furthermore, the participant's cognitive style was found to be a significant factor on understanding. We also found that participants bring their own contexts such as social context and psychological context to support their understanding.


Internet; communication; consumer health information; contextualization of information; information retrieval.

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