Judging a book by its cover? The effect of anthropomorphism on product attribute processing and consumer preference

Echo Wen Wan, Rocky Peng Chen*, Liyin Jin

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    98 Citations (Scopus)
    100 Downloads (Pure)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1008-1030
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Consumer Research
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Marketing

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Anthropomorphism
    • Appearance attribute
    • Consumer preference
    • Functional attribute


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