It’s alive! Increasing protective action against the Coronavirus through anthropomorphism and construal

Jing Wan, Katina Kulow, Kirsten Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

News outlets often depict the coronavirus as a “burglar” or a “killer”—even though viruses are not technically alive. While imbuing this virus with human-like qualities may enable the public to feel as if they are better able to understand it, does anthropomorphizing the coronavirus lead people to adopt protective behaviors against the spread of the disease? Integrating construal level theory, we argue that anthropomorphizing an agent makes it seem more understandable, which decreases its psychological distance. And through construal matching between the message and consumers’ temporal focus, we demonstrate that when the coronavirus is anthropomorphized, people are more likely to adopt protective measures
when they are focused on the present versus the future because consumers believe the anthropomorphized coronavirus to be more powerful. Our findings contribute to both anthropomorphism and construal level theory research. Additionally, our findings offer implications for health communication strategies and public policy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Association for Consumer Research
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Sep 2020

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