Department of Marketing
Judging a book by its cover? The effect of anthropomorphism on product attribute processing and consumer preference
The present research finds that anthropomorphism, or attributing human characteristics to nonhuman objects, increases consumers’ preference for products with superior appearance. This effect occurs because consumers apply the belief of “beautiful is good,” a pervasive stereotype in person perception, to the judgment of anthropomorphized products. Seven experiments test the propositions. The results show that product anthropomorphism (vs. nonanthropomorphism) leads consumers to spend more time and money searching for information about appearance attributes (experiments 1 and 2), to indicate greater preference for products with superior appearance (experiments 4, 6, and 7), and to purchase products with superior appearance (experiments 3 and 5). The experiments also show that the effect of anthropomorphism on consumer preference is mediated by consumers’ conviction of “beautiful is good” in person perception. This effect is alleviated when consumers’ beliefs about the association between the attractive physical appearance of a person and the positive personal traits of this person are challenged. These results are robust across a wide range of product categories and consumers. Theoretical contributions and marketing implications are discussed.
anthropomorphism, appearance attribute, functional attribute, consumer preference
Source Publication Title
Journal of Consumer Research
Oxford University Press
This research is supported by a Hong Kong SAR RGC General Research Fund (HKU792613B) awarded to the first author, NSFC grants (71422005 and 71432001) awarded to the third author, and a HKU-Fudan IMBA Joint Research Fund (JRF12_1201) awarded to both the first author and the third author.
Link to Publisher's Edition
Wan, E., Chen, R., & Jin, L. (2017). Judging a book by its cover? The effect of anthropomorphism on product attribute processing and consumer preference. Journal of Consumer Research, 43 (6), 1008-1030. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucw074