Time anthropomorphism refers to the process of assigning human characteristics, motives, intentions, or emotions to time. This phenomenon has a subtle and far-reaching influence on our behavior, yet little is known about who is susceptible to it, how it operates, and its impact in various contexts, so focusing on time anthropomorphism and its influence on consumer behavior is an important topic with both theoretical and practical implications. Therefore, this study proposes that time anthropomorphism is specific in its cause and plays a unique role in consumption decisions and behaviors.
This study proposes that time anthropomorphism is influenced by the need for structure motivation, which is a desire for simple, structured, and organized things and environments. Time is abstract, powerful, ubiquitous, and part of human existence compared to other physical anthropomorphic objects, we argue that time anthropomorphism also differs from other anthropomorphisms in its genesis. Existing anthropomorphism research suggests that anthropomorphism has three main motivations: efficacy motivation, social motivation, and contextual knowledge, which reflect a passive feedback to the cognitive object. We propose that time anthropomorphism has initiative differences in motivation, and that this difference is independent of the cognitive object, that is need for structure motivation influences people's tendency to time anthropomorphism. People cannot know the nature of time, so individuals with high structural needs prefer to construct their own cognition about time by a simple human-time-relationship, and time anthropomorphism is a means to achieve this purpose. This motivation is reflected in different variables, first is gender, women show higher tendency of risk aversion and ambiguity aversion, so we believe that women have higher tendency of time anthropomorphism; the second is social class, middle class consumers have limited resources and are more concerned about environmental order, so we believe that middle class consumers have higher tendency of time anthropomorphism; the third is power distance, those with high power distance have higher hierarchy and order requirements, so they have a higher tendency to anthropomorphize time.
Furthermore, we propose that time anthropomorphism has an effect on consumers' prosocial behavior. Existing studies on the influence of anthropomorphism have focused on consumers' perceptions, attitudes, and behavioral changes toward anthropomorphic objects, but the abstract, generalized nature of time makes it possible for anthropomorphism to affect individual human decision making patterns and consumption behaviors across domains and objects by changing consumers' self-perceptions and perceptions. Time contains rich emotional factors, and time cues tend to stimulate consumers' emotional responses, while anthropomorphizing time can induce consumers to transform their relationship with time into a social relationship, which triggers emotion-based decision-making patterns., making consumers expect more positive emotional experiences and guiding their behavior with this goal. Prosocial behavior leads to positive affective rewards, so we argue that time anthropomorphism increases prosocial behavior and emotion-based decision making mediates this effect. This is due to the fact that anthropomorphism evokes an immediate emotion in consumers, and this immediate emotion is neutralized when consumers have other emotional states, so we argue that consumers' affective states at the time moderate this pathway, and that time anthropomorphism even has little effect on consumers' prosocial behavior when they are in a certain strong emotional state.
This study takes the motivation of time anthropomorphism as the starting point and the decision pattern as the entry point to examine the tendency of time anthropomorphism and its influence on consumers' prosocial behavior, and further explores the psychological mechanisms involved. The development of this study achieves a theoretical development of existing research. In terms of the causes of anthropomorphism, this study contributes to a better understanding of the qualities of time anthropomorphism and directs attention to the active tendency and individual differences of consumer anthropomorphism; from the perspective of psychological mechanisms, this study explores the impact of temporal anthropomorphic cues on current consumption decisions and explores the related emotional mechanisms based on a decision-making process perspective, which provides a new way of thinking about anthropomorphism; in terms of the consumer decision perspective, the consumer prosocial behavior brought about by our exploration of temporal anthropomorphic tendencies is specific to general consumption situations, arguing that the overall individual affective and cognitive changes brought about by time anthropomorphism, which migrate and affect consumer prosocial behavior.