Acceptance of a virtual coach for quitting smoking and becoming more physically active: A thematic analysis

Traits for a virtual coach to be a ”friend”

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Seeing the virtual coach as a friend is beneficial as it increases the motivation, confidence, and perseverance of the accompanying. Here, an investigation has taken place to what characteristics the virtual coach must possess to establish this friendly relationship. Thus, the main research question is: What are the reasons for seeing the virtual coach as a stranger or friend? This research made use of pre-gathered data. Here, five hundred participants interacted with the text-based virtual coach Sam in five separate sessions. Afterwards, each participant rated the relationship with the virtual coach, followed by an explanatory free-text response to which thematic analysis was applied. This resulted in five main themes: Relation, Positive Characteristics, Perception, Impersonal, and Chat Opinions. These were used to determine the characteristics the virtual coach must have to be considered a friend. Furthermore, these themes were used to obtain correlations. With these, it has been concluded that the user is more likely to develop a closer relationship with the virtual coach when: perceiving it as a human, pleasantly conversing, and being positive about its character. Whereas the user's age has a negligible influence on the relationship.