How perceptions of intelligence and anthropomorphism affect adoption of personal intelligent agents


A personal intelligent agent (PIA) is a system that acts intelligently to assist a human using natural language. Examples include Siri and Alexa. These agents are powerful computer programs that operate autonomously and proactively, learn and adapt to change, react to the environment, complete tasks within a favorable timeframe and communicate with the user using natural language to process commands and compose replies. PIAs are different from other systems previously explored in Information Systems (IS) due to their personalized, intelligent, and human-like behavior. Drawing on research in IS and Artificial Intelligence, we build and test a model of user adoption of PIAs leveraging their uique characteristics. Analysis of data collected from an interactive lab-based study for new PIA users confirms that both perceived intelligence and anthropomorphism are significant antecedents of PIA adoption. Our findings contribute to the understanding of a quickly-changing and fast-growing set of technologies that extend users’ capabilities and their sense of self​.

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Correspondence to Sara Moussawi.

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Appendix 1

Following a comprehensive review of the literature, we identify six key characteristics of PIAs and present them in Table 2 below. Popular PIAs like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri, possess the characteristics of personalization, autonomy, communication, reactivity to the environment, learning and adaptation to change and task completion at varying levels (Moussawi and Koufaris, 2019; Collins, 2018), but mostly lack pro-activeness capabilities. In contrast, a geographical positioning system that assists the user with navigation is an example of an agent that is proactive and uses natural language to communicate with the user but current implementations lack natural language processing abilities.

Table 2 Literature review of PIA’s characteristics
Table 3 Recent research on PIAs and conversational agents

Appendix 2

Survey instrument items.

Perceived intelligence adapted from Moussawi and Koufaris(2019).

PInt1 - Siri can complete tasks quickly.

PInt2 - Siri can understand my commands.

PInt3 - Siri can communicate with me in an understandable manner.

PInt4 - Siri can find and process the necessary information for completing its tasks.

PInt5 - Siri is able to provide me with a useful answer.

Perceived anthropomorphism adapted from Moussawi and Koufaris(2019).

PAnt1 - Siri is able to speak like a human.

PAnt2 - Siri can be happy.

PAnt3 - Siri is friendly.

PAnt4 - Siri is respectful.

PAnt5 - Siri is funny.

PAnt6 - Siri is caring.

Perceived usefulness adapted from Moore and Benbasat(1991).

PU1 - If I were to start using Siri, it would enable me to accomplish my tasks more quickly.

PU2 - If I were to start using Siri, the quality of my life would improve.

PU3 - If I were to start using Siri, it would enhance my overall effectiveness.

PU4 - If I were to start using Siri, it would make my life easier.

PU5 - Using Siri would give me greater control over my daily life.

Perceived ease of use adapted from Moore and Benbasat(1991).

PEOU1 - Learning to use Siri is easy for me.

PEOU2 - Overall, I believe that Siri is easy to use.

PEOU3 - I believe that it is easy to get Siri to do what I want it to do.

PEOU4 - My interaction with Siri is clear and understandable.

Intention to adopt from Karahanna et al.(1999).

Int1 - I intend to start using Siri within the next month.

Int2 - During the next months, I plan to experiment with or regularly use Siri.

Initial trust adapted from McKnight et al.(2002).

Trust_Benevolence - If I required help, Siri would do its best to help me.

Trust_Integrity - I characterize Siri as honest.

Trust_Ability - Siri is competent and effective in helping me with my daily tasks.

Perceived enjoyment adapted from Kamis et al.(2008).

Enj1 - While using Siri, I find the interaction enjoyable.

Enj2 - While using Siri, I find the interaction interesting.

Enj3 - While using Siri, I find the interaction to be fun.

Personal innovativeness of IT adapted from Agarwal and Prasad(1998).

PIIT1 - If I heard about a new information technology, I would look for ways to experiment with it.

PIIT2 - Among my peers, I am usually the first to try out new information technologies.

PIIT3 - In general, I am not afraid to try out new information technologies.

PIIT4 - I like to experiment with new information technologies.

Propensity to trust adapted from Hampton-Sosa and Koufaris(2005).

Prop1 - It is easy for me to trust a person or an object.

Prop2 - My tendency to trust a person or an object is high.

Prop3 - I tend to trust a person or an object, even though I have little knowledge of it.

Data Analysis.

Table 4 Latent variable correlations andsquare root of the average variance extracted (bold in diagonal cells); HTMT values between parantheses
Table 5 Evaluation of the formative measurement model
Table 6 Cross-loadings, composite reliability and average variance extracted for the reflective measurement models
Table 7 Correlations between the marker variable and other variables
Fig. 4

Experimental process

Appendix 3

We ran multiple mediation tests (Table 8) where the effects of all mediators are considered simultaneously rather than independently. These tests are important when exogenous constructs exert their influence through more than one mediating variable (Hair Jr et al., 2016). Our mediating variables (perceived enjoyment, initial trust, perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, perceived anthropomorphism) were slightly correlated (Table 4), so testing for multiple mediation was necessary to account for possible inflated effects (Hair Jr et al., 2016). Several studies have found support for relationships between perceived enjoyment and trust, and between perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use and trust (Hampton-Sosa and Koufaris, 2005; Qiu and Benbasat, 2009; Vance et al., 2008). We found full mediation effects of perceived enjoyment on the relationship between perceived anthropomorphism and intention to adopt. We found that perceived usefulness mediated the relationship between perceived intelligence and intention to adopt. We found that perceived anthropomorphism partially mediates the relationship between perceived intelligence and enjoyment, and between perceived intelligence and trust.

Table 8 Results of multiple mediation tests

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Moussawi, S., Koufaris, M. & Benbunan-Fich, R. How perceptions of intelligence and anthropomorphism affect adoption of personal intelligent agents. Electron Markets (2020).

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  • Personal intelligent agents
  • Perceived intelligence
  • Perceived anthropomorphism
  • Dual-purpose information systems
  • IT adoption

JEL classification

  • O30 O39