Anthropomorphism is Consequential; Not Cute

[Speaker] Waytz, Adam:1
1:Northwestern University (United States of America)

The concept of anthropomorphism--the attribution of humanlike mental states to nonhuman entities--often conjures up images of Fruit Loops cereal's Toucan Sam mascot, Pixar's Wall-E robot, Casper the Friendly Ghost, or a pet pug dog wearing a Green Bay Packers sweater. The ostensible cuteness of these images undermines the importance of anthropomorphism as a critical psychological process for navigating the social world beyond human beings, with important real-world consequences. I will present nine studies illustrating how anthropomorphism produces trust in technology such as a self-driving car, predicts (un)willingness to outsource jobs to robots, satiates human motivations for understanding and predictability, increases pro-environmental attitudes, increases socially desirable behaviors in the presence of nonhuman agents, and corresponds to belief in the continuation of stock market trends. Finally, I will present evidence that research on humanization of nonhumans can inform the understanding of anthropomorphism's inverse process, the dehumanization of human beings.
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