Effects of Interactivity on Recall of Health Information: Experimental Study

Emilia Margit Pajor, Sander Matthijs Eggers, Hein de Vries, Anke Oenema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Information provided in an interactive way is believed to be engaging because users can actively explore the information. Yet empirical findings often contradict this assumption. Consequently, there is still little known about whether and how interactivity affects communication outcomes such as recall.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate mechanisms through which interactivity affects recall of online health information. We tested whether and how cognitive involvement, perceived active control, and cognitive load mediate the effects of interactivity on recall. In addition, we examined need for cognition and health literacy as potential moderators of the mediation effects. Given the increasing popularity of dietary supplement use, our health website focused on this topic.

Methods: In an online between-subjects experiment (n=983), participants were randomly assigned to control condition (no interactive features), moderate interactivity (dropdown menus), and high interactivity (dropdown menus and responsive infographics). Two weeks before the experiment, background characteristics and moderating variables were measured. During website visit, data on users' online behavior were collected. Recall was measured postexposure.

Results: Participants recalled significantly less information in the moderate (mean 3.48 [SD 2.71]) and high (mean 3.52 [SD 2.64]) interactivity conditions compared with the control condition (mean 5.63 [SD 2.18]). In the mediation analysis, we found direct, negative effects of moderate (b=-2.25, 95% CI -2.59 to -1.90) and high (b=-2.16, 95% CI -2.51 to -1.81) levels of interactivity on recall as well. In the relationship between interactivity and recall, cognitive involvement had a partial negative mediation effect (moderate interactivity: b=-.20; 95% CI -0.31 to -0.10; high interactivity: b=-.21, 95% CI -0.33 to -0.10) and perceived active control had a partial positive mediation effect (moderate interactivity: b=.28, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.40; high interactivity: b=.27, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.40).

Conclusions: Interactivity decreased recall. In addition, through interactivity participants were less involved with the content of the information, yet they felt they had more control over the information. These effects were stronger in the high need for cognition and high health literate groups compared with their counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14783
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020


  • Interactivity
  • cognitive involvement
  • active control
  • cognitive load
  • recall
  • need for cognition
  • health literacy
  • online health information
  • information processing
  • dietary supplements
  • NEED
  • WEB

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