Study authors Sara Kim and Ann L. McGill, both at the University of Chicago, say previous research shows consumers tend to like objects that they perceive to possess human characteristics.
"We examine people's assessment of the risks associated with a gambling machine and a disease and how these risk perceptions may vary depending on whether these risk-bearing entities are anthropomorphized or not," the study authors say in a statement.
In one study, the researchers found study participants who recalled an incident in which they felt powerful perceived lower risk toward a slot machine game and were more likely to play it when the machine had a human-like face. However, people who felt powerless felt greater risk in the game and were less willing to play it when the machine resembled a human.
In a second study, people who felt powerful felt they could better control skin cancer when it was described as if it had human-like evil intentions to hurt people, but people who felt less powerful say they had little control over the disease when it was described in human terms -- perceiving greater risk.
The findings are published in the Journal of Consumer Research.