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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 April, 2004, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
People feel loyalty to computers
Woman using computer
How would you rate your attachment to a computer?
People tend to develop strong ties to a specific computer, even if it means waiting to use their favourite machine, say researchers.

A team at Pennsylvania State University in the US found that people were drawn to a PC because of their tendency to assign human attributes to machines.

It also reflected people's love of consistency, they said.

The researchers say their findings could have profound implications for computer manufacturers and advertisers.

Wait in line

The Penn State team set out to discover just how far people were prepared to go to maintain a relationship with their favourite PC.

For the study, they analysed the behaviour of university students using 800 computer terminals.

Professor Shyam Sundar
We increasingly view computers as sources of information not just mediums of information. We attribute social characteristics and treat them as autonomous
Professor Shyam Sundar, Penn State University
They found that students tended to show loyalty to one or two computers, even when others were free.

People given the option of a range of PCs tended to have favourites, with some even prepared to wait in line to use a particular machine.

"It is well documented how we treat computers as if they have feelings, despite the fact that we know deep down that they have been pre-programmed by humans," said Professor Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University.

Prof Sundar said there computer manufacturers and advertisers could learn from the results of the study.

In general, computers are marketed as things that can easily be phased out and replaced.

"A better advertising strategy might be to portray computers as something durable and reliable, something that grows with you," Prof Sundar told BBC News Online.

News dependence

The study also has implications for the influence web-based information is playing in people's lives.

"We increasingly view computers as sources of information not just mediums of information. We attribute social characteristics and treat them as autonomous," said the professor.

This could lead to an over dependence on electronically-generated news and information.

The tendency to treat computers as human could lead to people favouring or even blindly accepting computer-generated information, to the point of depending on it over superior alternatives, warned Prof Sundar.

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