Lab group on Conversational Agent Research

The Digital Communication Methods Lab is launching a group to discuss conversational agent and AI related research. The idea is to create a space in which we can discuss ongoing research, identify opportunities for collaboration, and build a network of researchers interested in the topic. We’ll organise monthly discussion sessions.

Members of ASCoR, RPA Personalised Communication, and RPA Communication have already joined, and some of the ongoing projects include surveys of usage of chatbots in health-related information and news distribution, analysis of persuasive outcomes of conversational agents and brand communication. For more information, please contact Theo Araujo and Judith Möller.

New projects on Media Exposure

Ewa Maslowska and Lukas Otto
Ewa Maslowska and Lukas Otto will start new projects in the Digital Communication Methods Lab, part of the RPA Communication, as of 2019!

Ewa’s project aims to investigate how we can reliably measure which elements of websites consumers are exposed to, in order to advance our knowledge about the effects of these elements on consumer information processing and decision making. The project will develop eye-tracking measurements for exposure to online content that are predictive of consumer behavior and examine to what extent those measurements correlate with other (digital) methods (e.g., mouse-move tracking). By doing this the project aims to create a stepping stone to understand the broader theme of consumer engagement. Furthermore, it aims to develop methodologies that will be applicable to other context of online communication than the online consumption context.

Memory failures and biased self-assessment are seen as severe challenges for the measurement of media exposure. Facing this challenge, Lukas’ project will add to the methods repertoire by introducing the mobile experience sampling method to media exposure research. Participants will indicate their political media usage via Smartphones directly after media exposure to minimize memory effects and multiple times per day to model media selection dynamics as they unfold over time.

Digicomlab researcher receives Diabetes Breakthrough Grant to develop and test virtual reality training for healthy grocery shopping

Gert-Jan de Bruijn has received a breakthrough grant from Diabetes foundation and ZonMw to develop and test the effectiveness of working memory training in virtual reality settings to promote healthy grocery shopping in virtual and real-life supermarkets.

It is well-known that, when people move to an area where there is a high density of health-harming food outlets, their odds for developing diabetes type 2 can increase by as much as four times. The idea behind this effect is that when people are exposed to unhealthy food cues in those outlets, they are more likely to purchase and consume those unhealthy foods. This is particularly the case when people are vulnerable to those cues, such as when people are in a state of hunger, have high blood glucose levels, or are diabetic.

Because intervening in real-life supermarkets is problematic due to a variety of reasons, virtual reality approaches are gaining traction in studies on health decision making. In this project, Gert-Jan (together with colleagues from Tilburg University, Free University Medical Center, and the Department of Psychology of the University of Amsterdam) will transfer offline working memory training strategies to a virtual reality mobile app setting. In this virtual reality setting, several external (store crowdedness, hedonic temptations) and internal (glucose levels, hunger) will be manipulated. After training, participants will do grocery shopping in an immersive virtual reality supermarket. During the month following the virtual reality training, the real-life shopping behaviours of the participants will also be assessed. The virtual reality training app is scheduled to be released via (among others) Digicomlab.

More details (in Dutch)

Digicomlab project with virtual supermarket at the Innovation Expo in Rotterdam

The virtual supermarket that is currently used in the project Testing Package Complexity in an Innovative 3D Virtual Supermarket Environment by prof. Edith Smit, dr. Nynke van der Laan, and dr. Corine Meppelink will be present at the Innovation Expo in Rotterdam!

The virtual supermarket has been developed at UMC Utrecht and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). This is a fully immersive shopping environment in which people can walk around and pick up products, and is used to understand how people make choices in a supermarket. More information here.

Digicomlab-members receive funding to start a Mobile Lab

Bert Bakker and Claes de Vreese together with Gijs Schumacher and Frans Oort (both UvA) have received an NWO Investment Grant to open a Mobile Lab (more information here). As Bert explains:

Excellent social science research requires studies that are both internally and externally valid. Currently, there are many obstacles to achieve this. Lab studies often produce high internal validity, but primarily rely on student samples (external validity issue) and are conducted in clinical settings (ecological validity issue). To address this researchers move their lab to the field (e.g., schools, sporting events, museums or festivals). But researchers face high transaction costs with these so-called lab-in-the-field studies: there are many practical issues to consider and some of these even threaten the internal validity of the study.

We offer a simple and innovative solution by creating a mobile social science lab – The Mobile Lab. This facility enables researchers to easily set-up a lab across the country on specific locations. We will invest in mobile electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracking and psychophysiology equipment as well as mobile cameras for in-depth interviews and behavioural observations. The Mobile Lab will be a national infrastructure and enable Dutch social scientists to test their theories on high-quality samples. In the coming months, the team will start developing the lab. More information will follow here soon.