Revisiting the effect of anthropomorphizing a social cause campaign

Williams, Lisa A., Masser, Barbara and Sun, Jessie (2015) Revisiting the effect of anthropomorphizing a social cause campaign. PL o S One, 10 9: 1-16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138886

Author Williams, Lisa A.
Masser, Barbara
Sun, Jessie
Title Revisiting the effect of anthropomorphizing a social cause campaign
Journal name PL o S One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2015-09
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0138886
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Issue 9
Start page 1
End page 16
Total pages 16
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Abstract Recent research suggests that anthropomorphism can be harnessed as a tool to boost intentions to comply with social cause campaigns. Drawing on the human tendency to extend moral concern to entities portrayed as humanlike, it has been argued that adding personified features to a social campaign elevates anticipated guilt at failing to comply, and this subsequently boosts intentions to comply with that campaign. The present research aimed to extend extant research by disentangling the effects of emotional and non-emotional anthropomorphism, and differentiating amongst other emotional mechanisms of the anthropomorphism-compliance effect (namely, anticipated pride and anticipated regret). Experiment 1 (N = 294) compared the effectiveness of positive, negative, and emotionally-neutral anthropomorphized campaign posters for boosting campaign compliance intentions against non-anthropomorphized posters. We also measured potential mechanisms including anticipated guilt, regret, and pride. Results failed to support the anthropomorphism-compliance effect, and no changes in anticipated emotion according to anthropomorphism emerged. Experiments 2 (N = 150) and 3 (N = 196) represented further tests of the anthropomorphism-compliance effect. Despite high statistical power and efforts to closely replicate the conditions under which the anthropomorphism-compliance effect had been previously observed, no differences in compliance intention or anticipated emotion according to anthropomorphism emerged. A meta-analysis of the effects of anthropomorphism on compliance and anticipated emotion across the three experiments revealed effect size estimates that did not differ significantly from zero. The results of these three experiments suggest that the anthropomorphism-compliance effect is fragile and perhaps subject to contextual and idiographic influences. Thus, this research provides important insight and impetus for future research on the applied and theoretical utility of anthropomorphizing social cause campaigns.
Keyword Pro-environmental behavior
Anticipated guilt
Planned behavior
Extended theory
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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