The Influence of Product Anthropomorphism on Comparative Judgment

31 Dec 2019


Huang, Feifei, Vincent Chi Wong, and Echo Wen Wan 

Published in Journal of Consumer Research, February 2020 

Consumers making a decision between different choices may compute a preference in at least two ways. On the one hand, they may perform a dimension-by-dimension comparison and choose the alternative that is superior with the greatest number of dimensions. Alternatively, they may first estimate the overall attractiveness of each alternative by integrating the values along the dimensions and then choose the alternative with the greatest overall attractiveness (absolute judgment process). The final decision can be quite different, depending on which strategy is adopted.  

When product alternatives are presented in a humanized manner, consumers tend to treat each alternative as an organic whole with a soul rather than a loose combination of instrumental attributes—similar to the way we treat people. Just as each person is distinctive, each humanized product as an integrated entity is perceived as structurally distinct from other humanized products, and should not be broken down to pieces and compared by individual dimensions mechanically. Dr Vincent Chi Wong, Assistant Professor of Marketing and co-authors propose and find that when confronting a consideration set in which all alternatives are humanized (as opposed to non-humanized), consumers are more likely to perceive each alternative as an integrated entity and thus, increase their chance to use an absolute judgment strategy. 

“The findings provide strong managerially actionable implications for marketers, suggesting product humanization as one additional and feasible way for firms to exert influence on consumers’ comparative judgments,” says Chi Wong. 

The rapid growth of online shopping platforms has provided consumers with unparalleled opportunities to compare product offerings efficiently. At the same time, product humanization has been widely used in marketing practice. These findings enrich marketing practitioners’ knowledge about the outcomes that product humanization may bring as a marketing tactic.