New project: Using Natural Language Processing and Generation to develop and test health-related chatbots

Chatbots have great potential for digital communication: they are always accessible, can do many interactions in parallel and engage in personalised interactions. However, the current generation of chatbots tends to have only a very limited set of responses, produce interactions that can be perceived as meandering, and cannot adopt adequately to the user’s knowledge and needs, as derived for the user’s responses. As a result, people tend to dissociate from chatbots quite rapidly, meaning their potential is presently unfulfilled.

In the present project, we integrate expertise from health communication, health psychology, and digital humanities to create and test chatbots that aim to foster long-term relationships between users and chatbots by having chatbots engage in human-like conversations. We aim to do this by iteratively developing chatbots that have a ’theory-of-mind’ and an interaction memory, for which the chatbot can subsequently engage in varied conversations. We use recent insights from computational linguistics, motivational interviewing, and persuasion and test our chatbots for both sexual health promotion and smoking cessation.

The project is a collaboration between University of Amsterdam, Radboud University, and Tilburg University. From the Digital Communication Methods Lab, dr. Gert-Jan de Bruijn is involved in the project and will supervise two PhD students.

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