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Transportation Science

Study Confirms That Cars Have Personalities 213

Posted by kdawson
from the disney-is-unsurprised dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "A study has confirmed that many people see human facial features in the front ends of automobiles and ascribe various personality traits to cars. Forty study participants assessed cars based on a system known as geometric morphometrics by viewing high-resolution, 3D computer reconstructions and printed images of 38 actual 2004-06 car models and rating each model on 19 traits such as dominance, maturity, gender, and friendliness, and if they liked the car. Study participants liked best the cars scoring high in the so-called power traits — the most mature, masculine, arrogant, and angry-looking ones. Researchers theorized that over evolutionary time, humans have developed a selective sensitivity to features in the human face that convey information on sex, age, emotions, and intentions. The lead researcher explained, 'Seeing too many faces, even in mountains or toast, has little or no penalty, but missing or misinterpreting the face of a predator or attacker could be fatal.'"
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Study Confirms That Cars Have Personalities

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  • Dupe (Score:4, Funny)

    by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @01:55AM (#25956045) Journal

    Study confirms that Slashdot has dupes [slashdot.org].

  • Of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @01:55AM (#25956047)

    Those features are there by design. Marketing tells engineering to make it so.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      Japanese cars seem to go for this. The most blatant example is the Miata.

      http://www.pinkmiata.com/images/miata_face.jpg [pinkmiata.com]

      There's another one I can find now where if you look at the headlights there's a smiley face. It's more subtle than the Miata, in fact you don't notice until someone points it out.

      Which makes you wonder if the machines will exploit this sort of this thing when they take over, e.g. by making Terminators look non threatening.

      • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:32AM (#25956267)

        Japanese cars seem to go for this. The most blatant example is the Miata.

        And then there are badass cars like this. [dabbledoo.com] To misquote Firefly, 'A man drives down the street in that, people know he's not afraid of anything.'

      • by Yoozer (1055188) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @05:58AM (#25957215) Homepage

        Which makes you wonder if the machines will exploit this sort of this thing when they take over, e.g. by making Terminators look non threatening.

        Hello Kitty says you have to come with her if you want to live.

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          The irony is that most people prefer NON-cute cars: "Study participants liked best the cars scoring high in the so-called power traits -- mature, masculine, arrogant, and angry-looking"

          Nice.

          Just what we need to create more road rage on our highways. I wonder how many of these participants were men? Might the results have changed if the participants were all women, or do women also prefer "power cars" (like power suits)? Well whatever. This male has always preferred cars that were feminine in appearanc

    • Re:Of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @03:02AM (#25956449) Homepage

      A car's personality is more than it's looks.

      If it was only the look of the Miata that counted then it wouldn't have been such a success.

      It's also about how it feels to drive and how well the design of the driver's area is done.

  • by Dr_Banzai (111657) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:08AM (#25956121) Homepage
    The easiest way to change the PERCEPTION of value is to alter the "Face" on the front of the car. Expensive cars have a face that is smarter, sleeker, sexier, more masculine, etc. Take a look at a BMW, how the shape of the headlights and the grille combine to make the characteristic BMW face. Cheap cars have weak, stupid, submissive faces. Why don't they take a cheap car and put a sexy face on it? Because then nobody would buy the expensive cars.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      erm, that and the BMW is made to much higher standards, has 10's of millions of RnD put into it and has superior materials used in it. you aren't suggesting a BMW is the same as a KIA, are you?
      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        you aren't suggesting a BMW is the same as a KIA, are you?

        No, I'd expect a Kia to last rather longer than a BMW without needing extensive repair work. Old BMWs are great. New BMWs are rubbish. Most BMWs about 5-6 years old are by now mostly just a thin layer of paint holding some powdery rust together.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Chrisje (471362)

          Sure. So most German car manufacturers like Audi, VW, BMW and Mercedes will give you 10+ years of warranty on the chassis of the car because they all know that their cars will turn to rust in 5 or 6 years?

          Now the body work, that's interesting... Most European cars nowadays will have more plastic for body work than anything else, if you look at Renault for instance, it's pure plastic. This is done to protect the driver and fellow road users on impact. The car will simply shred.

          As an added bonus, since it's N

          • by Gordonjcp (186804)

            so I'm really wondering what the hell you're basing your claims on.

            The three 2001-2003 BMWs I've seen scrapped in the past couple of months because of terminal rot.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            The experience I've had with Porsches and BMWs led me to believe that the vaunted "German Engineering" applied mostly to the engines and drivetrains...not so much to the body or interiors.

            That being said...I'm not as familiar with them on the past couple years models...but, while I think they're a blast to drive when they're running, I sure have invented a few new 4 letter words while they were in the shop and sucking money out of my wallet.

            Still...it'd be fun to get a 911 turbo again, but, I think for ba

          • by Ioldanach (88584)
            BMW standard warranty is now 2 years overall, 3 years for paint, and 12 years for bodywork.
      • by GooberToo (74388)

        you aren't suggesting a BMW is the same as a KIA, are you?

        Since I never suggested such a thing, that's a silly question. Just the same, I'll answer. Of course not. But contrary to common perception, the delta between your typical vehicle (which is not a Kia) and what you get with the luxury class isn't that far apart either. In fact, often more technology and higher precision goes into sports cars than does many luxury cars - yet the luxury car often costs 2-5x as much.

        You also need to keep in mind, the pri

      • by toddestan (632714)

        erm, that and the BMW is made to much higher standards, has 10's of millions of RnD put into it and has superior materials used in it. you aren't suggesting a BMW is the same as a KIA, are you?

        No, if you reread his post, he's asking why doesn't Kia style their cars to look more like BMW? It's not making the sheetmetal/plastic of a Kia look like a more expensive car would actually add much to the cost. Or go look at Hyundai, who has a car that looks a lot like a Mercedes, and another that looks a lot like

    • Ironically the weak stupid submissive ones (known as conformists) are the ones that put a larger priority on the "face" than the engineering of the car. I believe it's called overcompensation. I for one am not afraid to drive a Toyota Corolla because I know it's a good value, will last forever, and for a car is less harmful to the environment than most other cars, and guess what I don't give a rats ass what it's "face" looks like.

      • by bitrex (859228) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:47AM (#25956365)

        I hope to someday be able to purchase an internationally-marketed mass produced automobile that speaks to my own sense of individuality. I will perhaps get a GMC Acadia, but with a towhook package, or a Volkswagen Golf with a turbocharged engine instead of normally-aspirated and an iPod dock. I will then most likely get a tribal tattoo. I'm young, tech-savy,cyber-edgy and stickin' it to society's traditional values!

      • by mrops (927562)

        The all important question,

        Do you own the Corolla because you couldn't afford the BMW or because you choose to.

        Sure its more reliable than a BMW, however is it as much fun to drive. No I don't own a BMW either, but that is because I can't afford one.

        I care about the environment, no really I do, however the difference between your Corolla and a BMW is about as much as between a 800cc Suzuki and a Corolla.

        So while you may think you are nice to the environment, the guy in his 800cc Suzuki looks at you the same

      • The only car which I don't care about the looks of is the one I drive, because I drive it and so am not looking at it, I do however care what the inside looks like.....

        If you are buying your car because of what it looks like you will also have a wardrobe full of clothes that were in fashion last year that you no longer wear and will be soon giving to charity shops ....The car companies love you because you buy a new car every year ...

    • by exley (221867) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:28AM (#25956239) Homepage

      Why don't they take a cheap car and put a sexy face on it? Because then nobody would buy the expensive cars.

      Ummm, so couldn't someone who makes a cheaper car put a little bit more effort into how the car looks and make more money off it? Either through higher sticker price or increased sales?

      Drive a car like a BMW or Porsche or whatever -- I mean really drive it like it's capable of being driven -- and you'll understand a little better why cars like that cost more. I know what comes next: Overpriced? Depends on who you ask.

      • by houghi (78078)

        Drive a car like a BMW or Porsche or whatever -- I mean really drive it like it's capable of being driven -- and you'll understand a little better why cars like that cost more. I know what comes next: Overpriced? Depends on who you ask.

        What comes next is whether it is legal to drive a car in that way on a daily basis.
        When I go to work in my New Beetle, I drive just as fast as the guy in the BMW, Porche or Ferrari. When I drive it on a Sunday afternoon, the difference is only clear the first few meters when

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "What comes next is whether it is legal to drive a car in that way on a daily basis."

          Who cares?

          Seriously...I never look at a speed limit sign till the detector goes off. I drive as safely as I have to according to the road and traffic conditions, but, even in town, in areas, you can stretch the limits of a good performance care safely...and I do it quite often.

          A high performance car can go faster safely in any area....you just gotta know how to drive them, and understand theirs and your limitations.

    • "Why don't they take a cheap car and put a sexy face on it?"

      For the same reason they don't put a beak on a Datsun and call it a flying car. Sex sells but so do other things such as efficiency, cuteness, novelty, and plain old 'cheap-n-nasty-but-does-the-job' (such as the mini I once owned that had a large yellow smiley face covering the drivers door).

      I'm sort of a half-caste nerd so here's something I've observed about superficial people: If you buy a car that is (say) a BMW wanna-be, then guess what,
    • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @04:36AM (#25956867) Homepage

      Cheap cars have weak, stupid, submissive faces.

      Not always. Take the original Mini or Beetle for example.

      • Cheap cars have weak, stupid, submissive faces.

        Not always. Take the original Mini or Beetle for example.

        The face of the original Beetle is what inspired Herbie the love bug. While perhaps Herbie didn't have a stupid face, it is hard to really distance a happy, loving smiley face from a submissive one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GooberToo (74388)

      Because then nobody would buy the expensive cars.

      Unlikely to be true. Cars are a status symbol. Cars are also the most expensive impulse purchase most will ever own. The combination of the two ensures the wealthy will continue to purchase cars simply because they are expensive - so long as the general public is also aware they are expensive.

      Over the last three decades, some of the most expensive luxury cars have had some of the worst mechanical reliability problems and sales continued strong. The wealthy do

      • by Gordo_1 (256312)

        I know several "wealthy" people who don't flaunt their wealth -- people like you just don't notice them. I also know that this country (US) is in a serious economic downturn partly because poeple who were not "wealthy" went out and bought fancy cars and houses on credit terms they couldn't afford.

        So, who are the bigger egotists, the wealthy or the wealthy-wannabes?

        • by GooberToo (74388)

          You jumped to conclusions. Obviously, not all wealthy people are as I portrayed but the point remains. Regardless of what the vehicle looks like, many wealthy and wanna-be (which is not me) wealthy will buy objects for the sole purpose of flaunting a status symbol. And this doesn't change that cars are the largest impulse purchase most people will ever make. The fact that it is an impulse purchase for anyone is truly dumbfounding.

          You also seem to be confused about wealth in the US too. Far too many "wealthy

          • by Gordo_1 (256312)

            Obviously, not all wealthy people are as I portrayed but the point remains. Regardless of what the vehicle looks like, many wealthy and wanna-be (which is not me) wealthy will buy objects for the sole purpose of flaunting a status symbol.

            No, your original point was that wealthy people are egotists with small penises. My point was that wealth actually has very little to do with ego or penis size. You can backtrack all you want now, but that's what your post was about.

            You also seem to be confused about wealth in the US too. Far too many "wealthy" people live at their income level or beyond, saving nothing for retirement. I do not consider these people wealthy.

            Nor do I. Not sure what I wrote makes you think I'm confused.

            critical examination of facts does not make one an egotists

            Are we involved in the same conversation? If you go back and re-read my original response, you'll discover I made no such assertion.

            Perhaps you should examine your self as to why a critical examination of these people have you in such a defencive posture.

            Critical examination? What part of what you wrote would you consider a critical examin

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >Why don't they take a cheap car and put a sexy face on it?

      Well, they do. Look at the Hyundai Tiberon. [hyundaiusa.com] It looks like a sexy sportscar, but its a cheap-ish Hyundai. I think buyers in the econobox market want a submissive car.

      Im sure a lot of people shopping for Hyundais and Kias are turned off by the Tiberon as being "too sporty." They probably think its just going to burn too much gas and go too fast, but the Civic or similiar looks like your friendly pal who will do his best to get you to where you nee

  • by mveloso (325617) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:09AM (#25956125)

    With a porcupine, the pricks are on the outside! // old joke // had 3 bimmers, miss them all

    • by Burning1 (204959)

      I drive a BMW motorcycle. Does that make me a porcupine?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:20AM (#25956177)

    I'm getting a bit tired of Slashdot trolling its own users just to create discussions. Maybe this wasn't the best news post to comment on since only the title is bad but I'm sure most know what I'm talking about. Why can't you just make good titles and good summaries? Do bad ones really generate that many more clicks (ad views)?

  • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:22AM (#25956193) Journal

    Cars not only have personalities, they have souls! Every morning I beseech the machine spirit of my car to start the engine and have it run smoothly and reliably. It's worked so far.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by xstonedogx (814876)

      Interestingly enough, if you squint just right, my car looks like the Virgin Mary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I don't believe that. I've seen your car mate, and it doesn't look like no virgin to me. It's well and truly f**ked

        (btw before I get attacked for this, it is a joke ok)

    • by sorak (246725)

      Cars not only have personalities, they have souls! Every morning I beseech the machine spirit of my car to start the engine and have it run smoothly and reliably. It's worked so far.

      Not mine. It's an atheist. It doesn't believe in gods or drivers.

  • Uh... Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:24AM (#25956207)
    people have been doing caricatures of automobile "faces" since early 20th century. I mean like 1910. If people did not "see" faces in automobiles, the excellent Pixar movie "Cars" would have had no entertainment value. It would have just been... weird.

    And if people are going to see "faces" in automobiles, they are going to see expressions, too.

    Did somebody actually get CREDIT for doing this study, which appears to be a phenomenal statement of the obvious?
    • Re:Uh... Duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by quintesse (654840) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @03:16AM (#25956515)

      True, even the earliest Disney cartoons gave cars faces (well, they gave faces to just about anything but that's beside the point, my point anyway)

      But come on, don't tell me car designers, at least nowadays, don't know perfectly well that people see faces in their cars... because they put them there!

      The study should have been backward: do car designers make cars look to have human facial expressions?

      The value of the study would have been the same though: null, void, zilch. God what a waste of time.

      • While talking about cartoons, Japanese did it too with Bumpety Boo [youtube.com] / Boumbo [youtube.com]. You can't miss the nose on that car's face. Sanrio event put a face on the Shinkansen [google.com] (the bullet train).
      • I think you'll find that some designers would try to not make their cars look like faces. I'm not sure the study was a waste of time, although I don't think it's as interesting as the study that concluded some people use the same neurological process that recognizes faces to recognizes cars, while some people don't. The people who did needed to see the whole car, similar to how people generally can't identify a face by looking at separate facial features alone.

      • by lubricated (49106)

        >The study should have been backward: do car designers make cars look to have human facial expressions?

        >The value of the study would have been the same though: null, void, zilch. God what a waste of time.

        I'm not sure about this study, but I know someone who does something very similar, on a more complex level. The reason this study has value is because car manufacturers want to know this information. They fund these studies and studying the reverse is completely uninteresting to them. Getting a car

    • They don't look right. The headlamps should be the eyes, not the screen.
    • by Comboman (895500)
      That's why the Tucker Sedan [wikipedia.org] failed; no one likes a triclops.
    • Well, except that in that movie the eyes are on the windscreens, not the headlights, which is what most people would identify as the eyes, I'm guessing.

    • by D Ninja (825055)

      Did somebody actually get CREDIT for doing this study, which appears to be a phenomenal statement of the obvious?

      For the life of me, I'm blanking on the term right now, but you have demonstrated the fact that something is obvious once you know it (duh). It may not have been so obvious before someone told you though.

  • ... but there's some vacuous humans I've met that don't seem to have one. I also wonder about the mental health of people who would fund and implement a "study" such as this.

  • But $34 to take a look is a bit much. :o(

    I would be curious especially to see the images used, hoping to see a vehicle similar to mine, just to see what personality is ascribed to it.

    Oh, well, no way I'm paying that much for just casual curiosity.

    --
    Tomas

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @04:08AM (#25956743) Homepage

    I did a study on cars and asked like 40 of my friends to rate a bunch of cars selected at random. The options for choices were "like a squirrel", "like a fox", "like a tiger", "like a bird", "like a bear" and "like a turtle." Without exception, everyone likened each car presented to some kind of animal. Therefore people think all cars look like animals.

    Did anyone catch the flaw?

    Now go back and look at the summary. All of the words given as choices in describing the cars are closely linked to personality traits. So of COURSE they will be perceived to have personalities if they are described in those terms!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by horatiocain (1199485)
      It's a good point. While I think the study was based on the personality of a given car being 'reliable'(haven't RTFA since the original post of this), I would want to see some brain scans of activity in the fusiform gyrus [wikipedia.org] or something by random car-looker-atters before I trusted the whole thing.
    • Goddamn, I wish someone would invent a moderation system for /. that actually worked.

      I just wasted several minutes of my life reading through weak jokes, arguments and trolling. The only insightful comment on the page is yours. If only there was a way to move comments like this to the top, rather than just rewarding the people who happen to post first.

  • The AMC Gremlin probably resembles the majority of /.ers--maybe any AMC car for that matter.
  • Cars definitely do have personalities. My GMC pickup has all the personality of a donkey: it's slow and stubborn and doesn't want to work and no amount of coaxing (new fuel and ignition systems) will convince it to do what I ask. It also eats and drinks a lot but just barely earns its keep. It also poops a lot (rust)

    The MR2 I had was that of a beapoo (a beagle/poodle mix) -- quick on its feet, cozy, cute, and nimble, and didn't eat or drink much. It was also somewhat fragile (a coworker hit it with his tru

    • The ZR-1 Corvette: it has the personality of a lion. It's very strong and fast, can roar very loudly, holds its course extremely well in turns, but not particularly agile in very tight turns in tight spaces. It roars and is really fast, and can stop on a dime.

      Never understood this one. If you're driving a ZR-1 or whatever, you can afford not to be looking for dimes on the pavement.

  • Tell that to people obsessing over a cucumber slice.

  • by _Ludwig (86077) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:53AM (#25957437) Journal

    The perceived personality that TFA talks about has little to do with a car's actual performance characteristics and more to do with how the car owner wishes to be perceived, at least to anyone who knows the first thing about cars. Round "open-eyed" headlights and a surprised mouth may suggest some sort of anime-style "passive femininity" to people who aren't familiar with, say, a Shelby Cobra [limit4000.net] or Ferrari Barchetta [blogspot.com], but eventually even the nonenthusiast consumer will learn that "angry aerodynamic eyebrow" headlights and "low-slung frowny grilles" can be just as easily applied to mediocre grocery-getting minivans as high-end sports cars. The face of one's car tends to say far more about its owner than it does about the car itself.

    Look at the front of a Prius. [timothyhumphrey.name] Obviously not marketed towards macho leadfoot NASCAR wannabes, but look: The grille is clearly smiling at you, but the headlights connote a high-tech aerodynamic (albeit not unfriendly) robot, in contrast to the helpful eager puppy look of, say, a new Thunderbird. [weblog.com]

    (For my (nonexistent) money, the new car that strikes the best balance is the new Challenger. [newdodgechallenger.net] The headlights are browed just right to look serious without being psychopathically aggressive, and in combination with the slightly smirking lower (intercooler?) intake the whole face looks confident without being obnoxiously threatening. It would have been a much better Bumblebee than that stupid Camaro.)

  • So, wait... They asked people to rate how much various cars appear to have certain human traits, and then said "Look! They're describing the cars as having human traits!"?

  • This food is tasty, that girl is beautiful, the orion constellation have a belt, the cars have personalities... all phrases where the described object is in fact the observer.
  • Back in the early 90s, when Ford was re-designing the mustang, they used this very concept. Although some of the features were based on nostalgia, they put a lot of stock in the car's personality. They had three competing concepts: the sleak and friendly "Bruce Jenner", the angry agressive "Rambo", and the not-so-angry but still pumped-up "Arnold Schwarzenegger" concept. Bruce was seen by most market surveys as too wimpy. Rambo and Arnold were both popular but Ford pick Arnold. Here is a link http://auto.ho [howstuffworks.com]
  • Nothing new there. Railroaders have known for more than 150 years that steam locomotives had "personnalities"; within any given class of identical engines, there was the smooth runner, the good steamer, the rough rider and so on...

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