We’ve speculated here, there and elsewhere about the subliminal power of mental structures, such as the face-recognizing fusiform gyrus, to influence our perception of art and other visual experiences. So I was interested to see an article on the topic in the Toronto Globe and Mail (original story from Agence France-Presse), which was left at the hotel room on my last day in Newfoundland. It reports a study by Karl Grammer of the University of Vienna on how we react to cars on the basis of their “facial” characteristics.

It probably won’t come as a surprise that most people viewed cars as having faces. Nor that there was often agreement on the corresponding “personalities,” as with the “submissive and friendly” Nissan Micra pictured above. What was surprising to me, though, was that most people, including both men and women, seemed to agree on their preference. From the study:

…the better our subjects liked a car, the closer it matched the shape characteristics corresponding to high values of “power.” Thus, people seem to like mature, dominant, masculine, arrogant, angry-looking cars.

I wonder whether car designers pay any explicit attention to the car-face analogy in developing appealing designs? If so, I was unable to find evidence for it in an Internet search. I do suspect it might influence my personal decision-making. My favorite car for looks had a short, squarish jaw like a retriever puppy. However, I generally pay so little attention to cars, I was competely clueless as to what make and model I had rented and was driving for the last two and a half weeks.

Do you have a favorite car (owned or not)? Do you like its face?

Update: immediately after posting, I came across a news(?) item which mentioned that the Obamas have recently traded in a Chrysler 300C (cited in the article as one of the more aggressive styles) for a Ford Escape Hybrid (looks pretty docile to me, see below). Significant?

Chrysler 300C

Ford Escape