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Anthropomorphism in Decorative Pictures: Benefit or Harm for Learning?

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Journal of Educational Psychology Volume 110, Number 2, ISSN 0022-0663


When people attribute human characteristics to nonhuman objects they are amenable to anthropomorphism. For example, human faces or the insertion of personalized labels are found to trigger anthropomorphism. Two studies examine the effects of these features when included in decorative pictures in multimedia learning materials. In a first experiment, 81 university students were randomly assigned to 1 cell of a 2 (human faces vs. no faces in pictures) × 2 (personalized vs. nonpersonalized labels of pictures) between-subjects, factorial design. In addition to learning performance, cognitive, motivational, and emotional impacts of anthropomorphism are examined. Results show that both human faces and anthropomorphic labels were able to increase the learning performance on cognitive assessments. However, only human faces were able to influence motivational and emotional ratings significantly. In a second experiment, 108 secondary school students were randomly assigned to 3 groups (anthropomorphized pictures, nonanthropomorphized pictures, and no pictures) in order to evaluate possible advantages of anthropomorphism in decorative pictures in learning materials. Results show again that anthropomorphized pictures are better for learning than nonanthropomorphized pictures and also better than a control group. Results are discussed in the light of a debate on the inclusion or exclusion of decorative pictures.


Schneider, S., Nebel, S., Beege, M. & Rey, G.D. (2018). Anthropomorphism in Decorative Pictures: Benefit or Harm for Learning?. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(2), 218-232. Retrieved December 11, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ERIC on January 9, 2019. [Original Record]

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