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Abstract

Websites commonly use animation to capture the attentional resources of online consumers. While prior research has focused on the effects of animation on animated banner ads, limited research has examined the effects of animation on other items on the same webpage. Drawing from psychological theories that the amount of an individual’s attentional resources may vary under different conditions, this study focuses on the effects of animation on how individuals allocate attentional resources to both the animated item and the remaining non-animated items. We conducted an eye-tracking experiment to follow online consumers’ visual attention while they performed two types of online shopping tasks: browsing and searching tasks. The results showed that a product item that used animation led to increased visual attention to all items on a webpage, which suggests that the amount of attentional resources increases when a webpage includes animation. Meanwhile, animation influenced how individuals allocate their attentional resources such that it increased visual attention on the animated item at the expense of attention on nonanimated items on the same webpage. In addition, the type of shopping task moderated animation’s effect on how individuals allocate their attentional resources. Specifically, animation’s effect on attracting attentional resources to the animated item was stronger when online consumers browsed than when they searched for a specific target item. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

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