The Consequences of Anthropomorphic and Teleological Beliefs in a Global Pandemic


To describe something in terms of its purpose or function is to describe its teleology. Previous studies have found that teleological beliefs are positively related to anthropomorphism, and that anthropomorphism decreases the perceived unpredictability of non-human agents. In the current study, we explore these relationships using the highly salient example of beliefs about the coronavirus pandemic. Results showed that both anthropomorphism and teleology were negatively associated with perceived uncertainty and threat, and positively associated with self-reported behavioural change in response to the pandemic. These findings suggest that highly anthropomorphic and teleological individuals may view coronavirus as agentive and goal-directed. While anthropomorphic and teleological beliefs may facilitate behavioural change in response to the pandemic, we also found that the associated reduction in uncertainty and threat may be detrimental to behavioural change. We discuss the implications of these findings for messaging about global events more broadly.

Behavioral Sciences, (14), 2, pp. 146,