AbstractAs artificial intelligence and robots increase in popularity, human emotional attachment to technologies has become a salient research topic. However, many studies face the challenges of lacking a clear definition of emotional attachment that is overarching to cover emotional attachment to different entities and of differentiating these types of attachment phenomena. After reviewing the classic and contemporary research on human emotional attachment to people, pets, and possessions, we propose a novel, generalized definition and model of attachment across a person’s lifespan that describes the mechanism of human emotional attachment. Our literature review revealed two distinct but overlapping broad categories of research on human attachment: human–human attachments and human–nonhuman attachments. Our model integrates psychological principles and mechanisms from both classic infant–mother attachment theory and contemporary consumer behaviour research on emotional attachment to nonhuman objects. Emphasis is placed on the central role of the self-concept in all forms of human emotional attachments. We define human emotional attachment as a psychological phenomenon characterized by (a) perceiving the attributes of the attachment object as congruent with the self (supporting the self-concept and self-worth), (b) eliciting emotional reactions, and (c) evoking attachment behaviours. More specifically, the new model may lead to a series of new research on human emotional attachment to technologies and on its relationship to individuals’ self-concept development and well-being.
Keywords: Infant–mother attachment, self-concept, self-worth, human–robot interaction, generalized emotional attachment, human–robot attachment