In a study with 320 Canadian participants, we explore the effect of perceived physical and non-physical anthropomorphism of an Embodied Conversational Agent (ECA) and the perceived actual and subjective age difference between an individual and this ECA on the ECA’s likeability and credibility. We also explore the effect of likeability and credibility on the attitude towards the website on which the ECA appears and the brand on the website. Perceived physical anthropomorphism has a positive effect on ECA likeability and credibility. The perceived differences between a consumer’s subjective and actual age and perceived ECA age have a negative effect on ECA likeability. This effect is attenuated by an interaction effect between the subjective age difference and perceived non-physical anthropomorphism: for a given level of the subjective age difference, the more the ECA is perceived as having human emotions and motivations, the more positive the effect on ECA likeability is. ECA likeability and credibility lead to more positive attitudes towards the website and the brand. For the conceptualization of our study, we draw upon the Attraction to Similarity Theory, complemented by insights from anthropomorphism studies, Self-Congruity Theory, and relational characteristics research. Theoretical and managerial contributions are discussed.
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