Understanding Interpersonal Trust and Task-Unrelated Thought Through Computer-Mediated Health Conversations

—Tyler Stetson (Mentor: Caitlin Mills)
Tyler Stetson

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many healthcare professionals to transition to digital telehealth platforms for patient visits, making interpersonal trust more difficult to achieve. My study examined the relationship between task-unrelated thought (TUT), likability, and interpersonal trust in medically related conversations. Two questions were asked for this study: (1) Is the level of trust and likability between two chat participants related to the frequency of TUT during computer mediated conversation? and (2) What features of language are associated with TUT, trust, and likability in a computer-mediated telehealth environment? Participants chatted online via an instant message platform about personal remedies for the common cold while also responding to pop-up, self-caught mind wandering probes that occurred at random frequency. Natural language processing tools were used to analyze the text from chat transcripts for sentiment, social dynamics, and emotional affect expressed during the chat. Participants evaluated their level of TUT as 3.55 on a scale of 1 to 7, with more TUT resulting in greater negative affect. These findings advocate that TUT is prevalent in computer-mediated health conversations.

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