December 09, 2008 09:26
A study suggests that most people see human or animal facial features in the front end of automobiles. Dennis Slice, professor at Florida State University and anthropologists at the University of Vienna published their findings in the December issue of journal Human Nature.
When the team showed 38 cars released between 2004 and 2006 to 40 men and women, one-third associated a human or an animal face with at least 90 percent of the cars. Generally, the headlights were seen as eyes, the radiator grill or air intake slots as the mouth, and the logo as the nose.
People thought cars had facial expressions. For example, participants felt elongated cars with pronouncedly low chassis or angular headlights set wide apart suggested a manly frown. Conversely, headlights with their upper edge relatively close to the middle like the Volkswagen Beetle suggested a smiling child or woman.
The team identified an evolutionary reason: primitive man could survive only if he had the ability to read another person or animal's mind from just a glance at their face, and over time this translated into the ability to read facial expressions in lifeless objects like stones, clouds, and cars.
If people encounter an angry car on the street, do they treat it with hostility? Car designers may be well advised to take a course or two in psychology.
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