The Influence of Anthropomorphism and Agency on Social Judgment in Virtual Environments


  • Kristine L. Nowak

    Corresponding author
    1. (Ph.D. Michigan State University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut, where she is the director of the Human Computer Interaction Lab. Her research examines the person perception process, and people's sense of presence in computer environments. She is also interested in examining usability issues and predictors of people's satisfaction with computer media.
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Address: Department of Communication Sciences, U-1085, Storrs, CT 06269.


This project examined how information provided in virtual worlds influences social judgment. It specifically tested the influence of anthropomorphism and agency on the level of uncertainty and social judgment, using a between-subjects experimental design. Anthropomorphism had three levels; a high anthropomorphic image, a low anthropomorphic image and no image. Agency had two levels; whether the participants were told they were interacting with a human (avatar condition) or a computer (agent condition). The results showed that the virtual image influenced social judgment. The less anthropomorphic image was perceived to be more credible and likeable than no image, which was more credible and likeable than the anthropomorphic image. There were no discernable differences in social judgment between participants who were told they were interacting with a human as compared to those told they were interacting with a computer agent, consistent with findings from previous reports. Neither anthropomorphism nor agency influenced reported levels of uncertainty. Implications of these results for those designing and using virtual environments are discussed.