Social annotation valence: The impact on online informed consent beliefs and behavior

Martina Balestra, Orit Shaer, Johanna Okerlund, Lauren Westendorf, Madeleine Ball, Oded Nov

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Background: Social media, mobile and wearable technology, and connected devices have significantly expanded the opportunities for conducting biomedical research online. Electronic consent to collecting such data, however, poses new challenges when contrasted to traditional consent processes. It reduces the participant-researcher dialogue but provides an opportunity for the consent deliberation process to move from solitary to social settings. In this research, we propose that social annotations, embedded in the consent form, can help prospective participants deliberate on the research and the organization behind it in ways that traditional consent forms cannot. Furthermore, we examine the role of the comments' valence on prospective participants' beliefs and behavior. Objective: This study focuses specifically on the influence of annotations' valence on participants' perceptions and behaviors surrounding online consent for biomedical research. We hope to shed light on how social annotation can be incorporated into digitally mediated consent forms responsibly and effectively. Methods: In this controlled between-subjects experiment, participants were presented with an online consent form for a personal genomics study that contained social annotations embedded in its margins. Individuals were randomly assigned to view the consent form with positive-, negative-, or mixed-valence comments beside the text of the consent form. We compared participants' perceptions of being informed and having understood the material, their trust in the organization seeking the consent, and their actual consent across conditions. Results: We find that comment valence has a marginally significant main effect on participants' perception of being informed (F2=2.40, P=.07); specifically, participants in the positive condition (mean 4.17, SD 0.94) felt less informed than those in the mixed condition (mean 4.50, SD 0.69, P=.09). Comment valence also had a marginal main effect on the extent to which participants reported trusting the organization (F2=2.566, P=.08). Participants in the negative condition (mean 3.59, SD 1.14) were marginally less trusting than participants exposed to the positive condition (mean 4.02, SD 0.90, P=.06). Finally, we found that consent rate did not differ across comment valence conditions; however, participants who spent less time studying the consent form were more likely to consent when they were exposed to positive-valence comments. Conclusions: This work explores the effects of adding a computer-mediated social dimension, which inherently contains human emotions and opinions, to the consent deliberation process. We proposed that augmenting the consent deliberation process to incorporate multiple voices can enable individuals to capitalize on the knowledge of others, which brings to light questions, problems, and concerns they may not have considered on their own. We found that consent forms containing positive valence annotations are likely to lead participants to feel less informed and simultaneously more trusting of the organization seeking consent. In certain cases where participants spent little time considering the content of the consent form, participants exposed to positive valence annotations were even more likely to consent to the study. We suggest that these findings represent important considerations for the design of future electronic informed consent mechanisms.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere197
    JournalJournal of medical Internet research
    Volume18
    Issue number7
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

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    Keywords

    • Consent forms
    • Decision support systems
    • Ethics
    • Informed consent
    • Social tagging systems

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health Informatics

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