Informed consent procedures: an experimental test using a virtual character in a dialog systems training application.
Researchers are generally trained to administer informed consent by studying approved guidelines, but still can fail to satisfactorily answer questions from potential participants. An application using a virtual character allowed novice participants to practice administering informed consent. This character was designed to behave as a potential participant for a study and asked many of the questions research participants typically ask, such as queries about the study itself, the sponsor, timing, selection procedures, confidentiality, voluntariness, benefits and risks, and contact information. The user responded to the character's queries as if speaking with a true potential research participant. The application was effective even after only brief usage. In a laboratory experiment, novice participants who practiced with the virtual character were later more effective in conducting informed consent interviews with a human interviewee than those who were trained only with written materials. Thus, simulated learning-by-doing improved informed consent skills. Implications for related health dialog applications are discussed.
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