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The Effect of Disease Anthropomorphism on Health Compliance, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science


The present article examines how disease anthropomorphism affects compliance with recommendations for preventing the disease. We find that consumers are more likely to comply with health recommendations when the disease is described in anthropomorphic (vs. non-anthropomorphic) terms because anthropomorphism increases psychological closeness to the disease, which increases perceived vulnerability. We demonstrate the effect of disease anthropomorphism on health compliance in seven studies with several diseases (COVID-19, breast cancer), manipulations of anthropomorphism (first person and third person; with and without an image), and participant populations (the US and China). We test the proposed pathway through psychological closeness and perceived vulnerability with sequential mediation analyses and moderation-of-process approaches, and we rule out alternative accounts based on known consequences of anthropomorphism and antecedents of health compliance. This research contributes to the theory and practice of health communication and to the growing literature on how the anthropomorphism of negative entities affects consumers’ judgments and behaviors.




Rima Toure-Tillery, Ann McGill, Lili Wang

Date Published



Toure-Tillery, Rima, Ann McGill, and Lili Wang. 2022. The Effect of Disease Anthropomorphism on Health Compliance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.


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