Human versus chatbot: Understanding the role of emotion in health marketing communication for vaccines

Wan Hsiu Sunny Tsai, Di Lun, Nick Carcioppolo, Ching Hua Chuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on the theoretical framework of agency effect, this study examined the role of affect in influencing the effects of chatbot versus human brand representatives in the context of health marketing communication about HPV vaccines. We conducted a 2 (perceived agency: chatbot vs. human) × 3 (affect elicitation: embarrassment, anger, neutral) between-subject lab experiment with 142 participants, who were randomly assigned to interact with either a perceived chatbot or a human representative. Key findings from self-reported and behavioral data highlight the complexity of consumer–chatbot communication. Specifically, participants reported lower interaction satisfaction with the chatbot than with the human representative when anger was evoked. However, participants were more likely to disclose concerns of HPV risks and provide more elaborate answers to the perceived human representative when embarrassment was elicited. Overall, the chatbot performed comparably to the human representative in terms of perceived usefulness and influence over participants' compliance intention in all emotional contexts. The findings complement the Computers as Social Actors paradigm and offer strategic guidelines to capitalize on the relative advantages of chatbot versus human representatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2377-2392
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • affect
  • anger
  • chatbot
  • embarrassment
  • health communication
  • health marketing
  • human-machine interaction
  • perceived agency
  • vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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