Research on personification and attachment

A just published research paper, Object personification in autism: This paper will be very sad if you don’t read it (only the abstract is freely available), made me wonder if there’s existing research about whether people personifying their electronic devices keep them for longer than those who don’t. The mentioned paper is in the context of autism, but also surveys neurotypicals, and some neurotypicals also personify objects and devices (and I remember a survey conducted some thirty years ago in France about the gender of the names people were giving to their computers).

Maybe this research topic could be suggested to researchers approaching the Restart Project.

Here are a few relevant quotes from the paper:

Object personification is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human agents. […]

[…] In our review of online forums, we were struck by the distressing tone of many posts (, 2017). Autistic individuals reported sadness and despair when faced with an object that might be hurt or lonely, and several asked whether they might receive ‘help for their problem’.

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This is interesting - and what an amazing title for a research paper! Unclear if Jonathan Chapman has written about personification in his seminal book “Emotionally Durable Design” - but people inspired by him are exploring this idea:

Ironic that IKEA gets mention, because of course I’m reminded of the infamous, sarcastic Spike Jonze advert for IKEA - “that is because you are crazy”

In the context of electronics and electricals, it would be interesting to explore which categories lend themselves more to “personification”. (The smartphone as we know it in Europe or N America perhaps not.)

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That’s indeed another related interesting research question, whether personification is dependent on the category of the device. (Now I’m tempted to write a feature request for the fixo to add fields for whether the owner talk to their device, and how do they call their device - then we could identify the category with the most responses!)


Ha! In this case, we wouldn’t record the name of the person, but the name of the device :laughing: