Making sense by making sentient: effectance motivation increases anthropomorphism.

Adam Waytz*, Carey K. Morewedge, Nicholas Epley, George Monteleone, Jia Hong Gao, John T. Cacioppo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


People commonly anthropomorphize nonhuman agents, imbuing everything from computers to pets to gods with humanlike capacities and mental experiences. Although widely observed, the determinants of anthropomorphism are poorly understood and rarely investigated. We propose that people anthropomorphize, in part, to satisfy effectance motivation-the basic and chronic motivation to attain mastery of one's environment. Five studies demonstrated that increasing effectance motivation by manipulating the perceived unpredictability of a nonhuman agent or by increasing the incentives for mastery increases anthropomorphism. Neuroimaging data demonstrated that the neural correlates of this process are similar to those engaged when mentalizing other humans. A final study demonstrated that anthropomorphizing a stimulus makes it appear more predictable and understandable, suggesting that anthropomorphism satisfies effectance motivation. Anthropomorphizing nonhuman agents seems to satisfy the basic motivation to make sense of an otherwise uncertain environment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-435
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Making sense by making sentient: effectance motivation increases anthropomorphism.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this