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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


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 - 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


Dive into the research topics of 'Judging a book by its cover? The effect of anthropomorphism on product attribute processing and consumer preference'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this