Technology

What Angry Headlights You Have: Humans Don’t Like “Happy” Cars

DiscoblogBy Nina BaiOct 16, 2008 6:41 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

We make snap judgments about strangers based on their faces.We even do this with inanimate objects, conjuring up human-like faces in furniture, appliances, and office supplies.A new study finds that when it comes to cars, we like their "expressions" angry and mean. Researchers in Vienna asked people to rate "headshots" of 38 cars using a list of 18 traits, including childlike, hostile, happy, and neurotic.The participants were also asked to draw the facial features they saw in the cars.Vehicles with wide stances, tapered windshields, and wide-set, angled headlights were the most liked (Lightning McQueen from Cars seems to qualify—as does Stephen King’s Christine) and scored high on traits associated with power, such as adult, dominant, arrogant, angry, masculine, and hostile.A typical "power" car was the scowling BMW 5 Series, while a smiling Toyota Prius ranked the fourth lowest on the list.

The researchers suspect the participants weren’t just judging the cars by their grilles, since the angry-faced cars also tended to be more expensive and prestigious.That’s why they're planning on extending their study to Ethiopia, where people have little exposure to modern car models.

The authors also noted that what a customer "likes" might not be the same as what they "buy"—think of it like choosing someone as a one-night stand, versus choosing someone as a spouse. Or drooling over a BMW versus buying a Prius.

Related Content:

DISCOVER: Do You Love This Face? DISCOVER: Why Darwin Would Have Loved Botox

Image: flickr/ Hello Kit

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.