The present research proposes a new perspective to investigate the effect of product anthropomorphism on consumers’ comparative judgment strategy in comparing two anthropomorphized (vs. two nonanthropomorphized) product options in a consideration set. Six experiments show that anthropomorphism increases consumers’ use of an absolute judgment strategy (vs. a dimension-by-dimension strategy) in comparative judgment, leading to increased preference for the option with a more favorable overall evaluation over the option with a greater number of superior dimensions. The effect is mediated by consumers’ perception of each anthropomorphized product alternative as an integrated entity rather than a bundle of separate attributes. The authors find the effect to be robust by directly tracing the process of participants’ information processing using MouseLab software and eye-tracking techniques, and by self-reported preferences and real consumption choices. Moreover, the effect is moderated by the motivation to seek maximized accuracy or ease. These studies have important implications for theories about anthropomorphism and comparative judgment as well as marketing practice.
Prof. Echo Wen WAN
Academic & Professional Qualification
- B.A (Economics), Nanjing University, P.R. China
- M.S (Information Systems), National University of Singapore, Singapore
- Ph.D (Marketing), Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, United States
Professor Wan’s major research interests are in the area of self-regulation, social exclusion, anthropomorphism marketing, social environment and consumption decision, and consumer behavior in digital era. Professor Wan has published research output at premier academic journals such as Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, and Journal of Consumer Psychology. She served as the Co-Chair for Association for Consumer Research, Asia-Pacific Conference in 2015. She currently serves on the editorial board for Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Consumer Psychology.
- Anthropomorphism in marketing
- Health marketing
- Social environment and consumer decision-making
- New consumption form in digital era
- Cognitive and Meta-Cognitive Process in Information Processing
Refereed Journal Publications
- Huang Feifei, Vincent Chi Wong, and Echo Wen Wan (2020), “The Influence of Product Anthropomorphism on Comparative Judgment,” Journal of Consumer Research, 46(5), 936-955.
- Lei Su, Echo Wen Wan, and Yuwei Jiang (2019), “Filling an Empty Self: The Impact of Social Exclusion on Consumer Preference for Visual Density”, Journal of Consumer Research, 46(4), 808-824.
- Ding Ying, Echo Wen Wan, and Jing Xu (2017), “Will Broad Identity Increase Preference for More Advanced Products? The Impact of Social Identity Framing on Consumer Choice,” Journal of Consumer Psychology, 27 (2), 231-244.
- Wan, Echo Wen, Rocky Peng Chen, and Liyin Jin (2017), “Judging a Book by Its Cover? The Effect of Anthropomorphism on Product Attribute Processing and Consumer Preference,” Journal of Consumer Research, 43 (6), 1008-1030
- Chen, Rocky Peng, Echo Wen Wan, and Eric Levy (2017), “The Effect of Social Exclusion on Consumer Preference for Anthropomorphized Brands”, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 27 (1), 23-34.
- Wan, Echo Wen, Kimmy Chan, and Rocky Peng Chen (2016), “Hurting or Helping? The Effect of Service Agents’ Workplace Ostracism on Customers’ Service Perceptions,” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44, 746-769.
- Wan Echo Wen, Jing Xu, and Ying Ding (2014), “To Be or Not To Be Unique? The Effects of Social Exclusion on Consumer Choice,” Journal of Consumer Research, 40 (6), 1109-1122.
- Duclos Rod, Echo Wen Wan, and Yuwei Jiang (2013), “Show Me the Honey! Effects of Social Exclusion on Financial Risk-Taking,” Journal of Consumer Research, 40 (3), 122–135.
- Wan Echo Wen and Derek D. Rucker (2013), “Confidence and Construal Framing: When Confidence Increases versus Decreases Information Processing,” Journal of Consumer Research, 39 (5), 977–992.
- Chan Kimmy and Echo Wen Wan (2012), “How Can Stressed Employees Deliver Better Customer Service? The Underlying Self-Regulation Depletion Mechanism,” Journal of Marketing, 76 (1), 119–137.
- Wan Echo Wen and Nidhi Agrawal (2011), “Carry-Over Effects of Self-Control on Decision-Making: A Construal Level Perspective,” Journal of Consumer Research, 38 (1), 199–214.
- Wan Echo Wen, Derek D. Rucker, Zakary L. Tormala, and Joshua J. Clarkson (2010), “The Effect of Regulatory Depletion on Attitude Certainty,” Journal of Marketing Research, 47 (3), 531–541.
- Agrawal Nidhi and Echo Wen Wan (2009), “Regulating Risk or Risking Regulation? Construal Levels and Depletion Effects in the Processing of Health Messages,” Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (3), 448–462.
- Wan Echo Wen, Jiewen Hong, and Brian Sternthal (2009), “The Effect of Regulatory Orientation and Decision Strategy on Brand Judgments,” Journal of Consumer Research, 35 (6), 1026–1038.
- Wan Echo Wen and Brian Sternthal (2008), “Regulating the Effects of Depletion through Resource Monitoring,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (1), 47-60.
Awards and Honours
- Marketing Science Institute (MSI) Scholar, 2020
- Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research, 2019
- Best Paper Award, La Londe Conference, France, 2017.
- Best Working Paper Award, Association for Consume Research Conference, Berlin, Germany, 2016.
- Faculty Outstanding Researcher Award, HKU Business School, 2015
- Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar, 2013.
- Research Output Prize, the University of Hong Kong, 2011.
This research examines the effect of social exclusion on consumers’ preferences for visual density. Based on seven experimental studies, we reveal that consumers who perceive themselves as socially excluded evaluate products with dense visual patterns more positively than their nonexcluded peers. This effect occurs because social exclusion triggers a feeling of psychological emptiness and dense patterns can provide a sense of being “filled,” which helps to alleviate this feeling of emptiness. This effect is attenuated when consumers physically fill something or experience a feeling of “temporal density” (i.e., imagining a busy schedule with many tasks packed into a short time). These results shed light on consumers’ socially grounded product aesthetic preferences and offer practical implications for marketers, designers, and policy makers.
New research into consumer buying behaviour shows that endowing products with human-like characteristics increases their appeal to customers when the product has attractive appearance design. By adapting their product designs and packaging in line with these findings, marketers and product developers can gain an edge over the competition and improve the chances that customers will choose their products.