Tag Archives: marketing

People prefer wider faces on products if they are seeking to show dominance or would like to project importance. Credit: Journal of Consumer Research.

Cars or watches with wider faces makes consumers feel more dominant

Modern product design is focused on aesthetics and functionality but that might not be the whole picture at all. Brands could attract new customers and charge a premium to boot if they also keep an eye on specific consumer personality traits that their products can touch. For instance, according to a new study performed by the University of Kansas, consumers prefer to buy products with wider faces on cars or watches when they want to be perceived as more dominant in certain situations.

People prefer wider faces on products if they are seeking to show dominance or would like to project importance. Credit: Journal of Consumer Research.

People prefer wider faces on products if they are seeking to show dominance or would like to project importance. Credit: Journal of Consumer Research.

Our knack for faces

If there’s one thing that computers still can’t do nearly as well as humans do, it’s pattern recognition — and no pattern is more easily recognizable than the human face. We’re basically hard-wired to recognize them because the human face is packed with cues that instantly inform us about a person’s identity, age, gender, mood, attractiveness, race, and friendliness. Humans and other primates even have specialized neurons in their brains – specifically six patches in the temporal lobe — dedicated to processing and recognizing faces.

Sometimes, however, this propensity for the human countenance makes us see faces in inanimate objects such as rocks or electricity plugs. When this happens, we usually shrug it off after a couple miliseconds of processing realizing that’s just a rock, though some people just can’t get over it. For instance, in the 1970s, NASA released a low-resolution photo taken by Viking 1 showing an area on Mars called Cydonia Mensae. The light, shadows, and low-resolution orbital photography made the outcrop uncannily resemble a human face. Even to this day, some people are convinced the ‘Face on Mars’ is a NASA cover-up conspiracy despite modern high-resolution images plainly showing this is just big freaking rock.

Right-lower corner: the low-resolution 'face on Mars' versus a 2001 high-resolution image of the same Cydonia region. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Right-lower corner: the low-resolution ‘face on Mars’ versus a 2001 high-resolution image of the same Cydonia region. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Shut up and take my money

Our tendency for anthropomorphism can also be a useful commercial trait for some companies, as Ahreum Maeng, an assistant professor of marketing at the KU School of Business, recently demonstrated.

“These kinds of things are automatically going on in people’s brains,” Maeng said in a statement. “When we see those shapes resembling a human face in the product design, we can’t help but perceive it that way.”

While previous studies found people are averse to wider faces because these elicit a fear of being dominated, the reverse effect seems to be true in the case of wider faces on products in a situation where the consumer wants to feel being dominant.

In five experiments, participants were asked to examine photos of human faces that ranged from a low width-to-height ratio (narrow and non-dominant) to a higher such ratio (wide-jawed and dominant). The participants then examined photos of products resembling faces, such as cars and watches, which similarly had a varied width-to-height ratio.

Finally, the study’s volunteers were asked to imagine different scenarios, like preparing for an encounter with either an old high school bully or a former sweetheart at the 10-year-old high school reunion.

When the participants felt they were in a situation that required them to assert more dominance, such as when meeting the old high school bully or in a meeting for a tough business negotiation, they were more inclined to prefer wider-faced products. When the situation called for a less pronounced desire to be perceived as dominant, this effect was less pronounced and people didn’t give nearly as much importance to products with a high width-to-height ratio.

“It’s probably because people view the product as part of themselves and they would think, ‘it’s my possession. I have control over it when I need it, and I can demonstrate my dominance through the product,” Maeng said.

Maeng says that some brands might one to pay attention to his findings especially since the consumer preference for dominant-looking products is not the same as people’s preference for luxury items. Previously in 2013, her team found a positive correlation between automobile prices and width-to-height ratio which suggests manufacturers can charge more for products with such an appearance. This enough “can have marketplace impact — by significantly improving the company’s bottom line,” Maeng concluded, whose findings appeared in the journal Consumer Research. 

People with good memory get bored faster

Science has shown what many already suspect — a good memory means you might get bored much faster, and the reason is pretty simple.

Memory and boredom might have a tight connection. Image via Max Pixel.

Basically, people with more memory spend more time analyzing said memories. They remember more details about their experiences, and that makes them feel like they’ve experienced it more. Being more familiar with your own thoughts can make you feel like you’ve experienced things more than you actually have, which means you’re more likely to grow tired of things you’ve already tried.

Noelle Nelson, lead author of the University of Kansas (KU), says this applies to all sorts of daily activities.

“Our findings suggest that if they can enhance their memory for the other times they’ve eaten these foods, they may feel satiated and then not seek out those unhealthy things,” said Nelson, assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior in the KU School of Business.

She and coauthor Joseph Redden, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, carried out four experiments with undergrads. The first thing was to measure the participants’ working memory, which they did in several different ways — for instance, by making them repeat a series of letters or asking them to recall how they performed in a memory game.

In the next stage, they asked participants to do something they would ultimately get bored of, such as viewing paintings or listening to music. They then correlated the two, finding that undergraduates with better memory got bored faster, or to use a more technical term, they were satiated sooner. Of course, this doesn’t imply causation, but it does seem to strongly suggest that working memory capacity is a critical cognitive mechanism associated with satiation.

This isn’t a novel idea, and previous research has indicated such a relationship in the past, but this is the first study to discuss and shed some light on the underlying mechanism. The study abstract reads:

“We also develop insight into the underlying cognitive mechanism using mediation and moderation to show that people utilizing a larger working memory capacity satiate faster because they more deeply encode and process each stimulus.”

Researchers say that the most immediate application is in marketing, where marketers could devise better strategies to keep users engaged for longer periods of time. However, this approach could benefit several other areas. For instance, schools and universities could improve the teaching process and thus benefit education as a whole. Or, psychologists could use it in their treatment to tailor an individual approach to different patients. Even, as the researchers themselves say, in weight management.

“Because a big part of overeating is psychological, a psychological solution such as memory processes could help people control their eating,” Nelson said. “Consumers might be able to satiate more quickly by simply recalling the last several times they ate.”

Although the usefulness of this study should not be underestimated, when it comes to boredom, I’m with Louis CK on this one — in this day and age, you simply don’t get to be bored, at least not in the sense that most people are saying it. You’ve got the internet, which is pretty much the entire knowledge and humor of mankind. You’ve got an endless amount of documentaries or funny videos, and there are more books than you could hope to read in a hundred lives. So really, don’t try to see this as “oh, I must have a great memory that’s why I’m bored all the time.” No, if this is the case, you’re not bored, you’re just lazy. Seriously, you don’t get to say “I’m bored,” and here’s why: