Novel cognitive consequences of product anthropomorphism on consumer judgment and decision making
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Consumers frequently come across anthropomorphic products, i.e., products imbued with human-like features. Marketers may anthropomorphize products by designing them to visually resemble human physical features (e.g., a coffee mug featuring eyes and a smiling mouth or a perfume bottle with a curved human body shape). My dissertation, in two essays, attempts to explore the novel cognitive effects of anthropomorphism on consumer judgment and decision-making. Cognition broadly refers to the mental processes of acquiring knowledge and understanding. A few examples of such mental processes include evaluation, reasoning, problem-solving, and comprehension, etc. The first essay of my dissertation explores the impact of product anthropomorphism on the extent to which consumers engage in price-quality judgments. In the second essay, we specifically investigate the downstream consequences of anthropomorphizing artificial-intelligence-based recommendation agents. As anthropomorphism gains popularity, consumers might increasingly find themselves comparing between two or more anthropomorphic products that differ in their prices. However, in such situations, there is a possibility of unintended consequences as recent findings in the anthropomorphism literature indicate that consumers process information related to anthropomorphic products differently as compared to non-anthropomorphic products. Essay 1 of my dissertation seeks to bridge this gap in our understanding by investigating the relationship between anthropomorphism and consumers’ tendency to use price as a basis for evaluating product quality, also known as price-quality judgments. Seven studies show that anthropomorphism decreases the consumers’ tendency to engage in price quality judgments. This occurs because anthropomorphism increases the salience of communal relationship norms, which, in turn, lowers the consumers’ tendency to use price as a basis for judging product quality. This research makes direct contributions to the literature on anthropomorphism, price-quality judgments, and relationship norms. Essay 2 of my dissertation explores the impact of anthropomorphism in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) enabled products. In the backdrop of burgeoning e-commerce and enabled by the rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, a host of product recommendation agents are now helping consumers to search and choose products in the digital marketplace. For example, – Alexa-enabled devices can now provide recommendations for choosing a restaurant or picking a wine that goes best with your food. In this essay, we investigate the effect of the anthropomorphic design of the recommendation agent on the consumers’ acceptance of product recommendations and the underlying psychological process. Five studies demonstrate that consumers are more likely to accept product advice from an anthropomorphized recommendation agent than a non-anthropomorphized agent. We find that such an increase in the likelihood of accepting the recommendation is driven by an increased attribution of ambiguity processing ability to the anthropomorphic recommendation agents as compared to the non-anthropomorphic recommendation agents. This research makes direct contributions to the literature on anthropomorphism in the context of artificial intelligence.
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