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Who or What to Believe: Trust and the Differential Persuasiveness of Human and Anthropomorphized Messengers, Journal of Marketing


Participants in three studies read advertisements in which messages were delivered either by people or by anthropomorphized agents—specifically, “talking” products. The results indicate that people low in interpersonal trust are more persuaded by anthropomorphized messengers than by human spokespeople because low trusters are more attentive to the nature of the messenger and believe that humans, more than partial humans (i.e., anthropomorphized agents), lack goodwill. People high in interpersonal trust are less attentive about who is trying to persuade them and so respond similarly to human and anthropomorphized messengers. However, when prompted to be attentive, they are more persuaded by human spokespeople than by anthropomorphized messengers due to their belief that humans, more than partial humans, act with goodwill. Under conditions in which attentiveness is low for all consumers, high and low trusters alike are unaffected by the nature of persuasion agents. The authors discuss the implications of the findings for advertisers considering the use of anthropomorphized “spokespeople.”




Rima Toure-Tillery, Ann McGill

Date Published



Toure-Tillery, Rima, and Ann McGill. 2015. Who or What to Believe: Trust and the Differential Persuasiveness of Human and Anthropomorphized Messengers. Journal of Marketing.(4): 94-110.


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