The researchers, who presented their findings in journal of Human Communication Research, suggested that the display of interconnected questions and answers promote a feeling of contingency and that leads to better engagement with the site.
“When you are having this back and forth interaction with a system — you are having a conversation with that system,” said Sundar.
The researchers suggest that as more people become frustrated with the lack of face-to-face interaction with their doctors, patients may be more willing to try online health assessments and applications.
In 2012, 61 percent of people said they were dissatisfied with the time doctors spent talking with patients, according to a poll conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers recruited 172 undergraduate students to take part in the study.