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Designing Peer-to-Peer Digital Communication Environments to Enhance Mental Health

Rachel Kornfield, PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Mental Health

Department of Communication Studies
Northwestern University

Online peer-to-peer support groups have become popular around the world, transforming the audiences that individuals can reach with their most personal disclosures. Yet, in most online support groups, disclosers lack objective information about the audiences they are reaching. This talk argues that, in this context, simple website design decisions can play an outsized role in shaping disclosers’ perceptions of their audiences, and therefore have potential to impact how individuals self-disclose and the level of psychological benefit they achieve. Dr. Kornfield will present findings from two experiments that altered perceptions of audience size, shared experience, and ability to respond, and that tracked psychological wellbeing and post-traumatic growth after participants disclosed their recent breakups and depression experiences. Finally, this talk will explore opportunities to re-design online support groups to craft optimal perceived audiences for enhancing therapeutic self-disclosure.

Presentation date: December 05, 2018.