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Abstract

This research proposes that technological artifacts are perceived as social actors, and that users can attribute personality and behavioral traits to them. These formed perceptions interact with the user’s own characteristics to construct an evaluation of the similarity between the user and the technological artifact. Such perceptions of similarity are important because individuals tend to more positively evaluate others, in this case technological artifacts, to whom they are more similar. Using an automated shopping assistant as one type of technological artifact, we investigate two types of perceived similarity between the customer and the artifact: perceived personality similarity and perceived behavioral similarity. We then investigate how design characteristics drive a customer’s perceptions of these similarities and, importantly, the bases for those design characteristics. Decisional guidance and speech act theory provide the basis for personality manifestation, while normative versus heuristic-based decision rules provide the basis for behavioral manifestation. We apply these design bases in an experiment. The results demonstrate that IT design characteristics can be used to manifest desired personalities and behaviors in a technological artifact. Moreover, these manifestations of personality and behavior interact with the customer’s own personality and behaviors to create matching perceptions of personality and behavioral similarity between the customer and the artifact. This study emphasizes the need to consider technological artifacts as social actors and describes the specific ways in which technology design can manifest social attributes. In doing so, we show that it is possible to match the social attributes of a technological artifact with those of the user.

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