It’s long been obvious to the astute observer that there's a strong consumer preference for cars with faces that evoke human characteristics like power and aggression, and less of a preference for cars that look happy or dim-witted. Now, in an effort to give car designers better tools for reaching specific groups of consumers, researchers in Switzerland are attempting to discover why those preferences exist, how styling features can be better used to evoke human emotion and how to employ new emotional features in design. “When investing in a new passenger car, you're talking about billions,” the head of EFS Consulting, the firm conducting the research, told MSNBC. “If you get the wrong styling, you get problems." MSNBC goes on to explain that, until now, car design has been more an art than a science. Designers can go after a certain emotion with known styling features, but they have no set of parameters to apply to a shape to make it behave in a certain way when viewed by humans. It’s that data that EFS is trying to gather. The first step in the research was to gather information on which cars evoked which emotions across a wide range of people. A group of participants was asked to rate passenger cars (SUVs were excluded for fear of skewing the results) on a sliding scale of traits. Age, for example could be ranked from “infancy” to “adulthood.” Other traits were maturity, sex, attitudes, emotions, and personality; all things humans can recognize in each other’s faces. That group’s preferences were then ranked, resulting in a marked preference for vehicles that evoke power like the BMW 5-series. Other traits such as arrogance, fear and agreableness evoked more mixed reactions. EFS is now hoping to employ eye movement-tracking and brain wave-measuring technology to further tap into their subjects' subconscious. The company also plans to conduct future studies in Ethiopia, a country where modern car design is totally alien, in an effort to collect unbiased results. We presume all this data will then be compiled and made available to car companies. We can also envision a bizarre future industry for developing nations: selling the sheltered psyches of their citizens to be used in automaker focus groups. [MSNBC]


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