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The Cognitive and Emotional Consequences of Anthropomorphic Thought.

By Jesse J. Chandler


Six experiments test how accessible anthropomorphic concepts affect thoughts and feelings about a variety of different objects (robots, vehicles and computers). Across these studies, people induced to think about objects in anthropomorphic terms (i) give less weight to product quality when making purchase and replacement decisions. Instead, they (ii) attend to features usually considered relevant in the interpersonal domain (such as neonatal features or connotations of “warmth”). Additionally, (iii) although people do not prefer new anthropomorphic products over non-anthropomorphized objects, they are generally more reluctant to replace anthropomorphized products that they already own, especially if they have an anxious interpersonal attachment style. Finally, (iv) people report experiencing more interpersonal emotions such as love and anger when thinking about anthropomorphized objects than when thinking about non-anthropomorphized objects. These effects occur even when the anthropomorphic cues are trivial and embedded within survey questions rather than a property of the object of judgment. Together these findings suggest that the categories of “human” and “nonhuman” are malleable and that social cognitive processes to be applied to objects, with potentially unforeseen consequences on emotional response and decision making

Topics: Anthropomorphism, Social Cognition
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