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Table 1 Studies on anthropomorphism via human-like images in multimedia learning materials

From: Anthropomorphizing malware, bots, and servers with human-like images and dialogues: the emotional design effects in a multimedia learning environment

Study Manipulation Findings
Plass et al. (2014) Facial features in images depicting T-cells and B-cells (immunization) Anthropomorphism induced positive affect and enhanced comprehension performance. Anthropomorphism increased transfer performance when applied with grayscale rather than warm colors. Anthropomorphism alone did not affect motivation or cognitive factors such as mental effort and perceived difficulty
Park et al. (2015) Facial features in images depicting T-cells and B-cells (immunization) Anthropomorphism enhanced comprehension and transfer performance when learners were also subjected to external positive mood induction. Learners subjected to both positive external mood induction and multimedia materials with anthropomorphism fixated on relevant learning materials the most, suggesting that anthropomorphism can influence learners’ attention
Brom, Hannemann, et al. (2016) Facial features in images depicting chemical elements (biological waste water treatment) Anthropomorphism enhanced retention, albeit with a small effect, but did not affect transfer performance, motivation, perceived difficulty, perceived usefulness, or flow. The researchers suggested anthropomorphism could serve as memory cues for learners to recall some learning materials, affecting retention rather than transfer—that is, emotional design tends to impact surface rather than deep learning
Uzun and Yıldırım (2018) Emotionally expressive facial features in graphics depicting objects such as a forklift and boxes (physics) Anthropomorphism alone did not increase positive emotions among learners. Instead, when warm colors were used, the multimedia animation that converged anthropomorphism with sound effects (e.g., friction sound effect corresponding to the animation illustrating the force of friction) induced higher positive emotions in learners than the multimedia animation without anthropomorphism and sound effects. When warm colors were used, infusing anthropomorphism alone into the multimedia animation did not affect mental efforts compared to when anthropomorphism was not incorporated; however, the animation with both anthropomorphism and sound effects significantly decreased mental efforts compared to the animation devoid of anthropomorphism and sound effects
Schneider et al. (2018) Facial features in images depicting service robots (AI) In Experiment 1, anthropomorphism led to increased retention, transfer, task-irrelevant thinking, mental effort, intrinsic motivation, and positive valence. In Experiment 2, anthropomorphism led to higher retention and transfer, intrinsic motivation, positive valence, extraneous load, and germane load while reducing intrinsic load
Schneider et al. (2019) Facial features and limbs in images depicting blood components The study embedded different levels of anthropomorphism (noanthropomorphism, simple-anthropomorphism featuring schematic eyes and mouth using dots and lines, or complex-anthropomorphism featuring eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and limbs). The increased degree of anthropomorphism led to significant differences in learning, intrinsic motivation, and aesthetics scores. Learners’ prior knowledge influenced the affective and cognitive effects of anthropomorphism