Car Facts

The love of a man for his truck is legendary throughout the US, but what about cars? Well, the first “Cars” animated movie was popular enough to bring on a sequel, so I guess they love their cars too. The auto parts stores have all sorts of goodies available to lavish on our darlings. Usually, image is secondary to performance as we rarely, if ever, can really push the performance to anything like a limit.

In the movie, all the cars had faces and this is a good place to start, Landwehr et al reported at the Neuro-Psycho-Economics Conference, held in Munich in 2008, that not only did cars have faces, but that they were female. Presumably most car designers are male (the ones I’ve heard of, anyway) and that may be why we have to refer to cars as ‘she’.

Anthropomorphizing our chunks of metal and plastic immediately makes us a case for the psychologists with an fMRI that is vacant (1,2). A group of Swiss guys were stuffed into the big magnet and lo and behold, the reward centers lit up when the girly faces showed up on cars.

They weren’t too keen on a macho male face. This is strange, as I have noticed a trend to this type of face on trucks and some cars showing up over the past year, so we’ll see how well these sell.

The most popular look was a warm smiling mouth (grill) in combination with stern, rather aggressive eyes (headlights). The image? Prepared to be friendly, but don’t you step out of line, now!

These preferences surely tell us more than we may want to know about the young guys at the U of St. Gallen. I, for one, will certainly be studying the front of my friends and colleagues cars in future.

But what about the girls? Oh dear, life was so much simpler when a car was just transport and not a window into the soul.

  2. J.R.Landwehr, B.Weber and A.Herrmann, Adv. Consumer Res., 38, 1, (2011).

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