Human Nature

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 331–346 | Cite as

Face to Face

The Perception of Automotive Designs
  • Sonja Windhager
  • Dennis E. Slice
  • Katrin Schaefer
  • Elisabeth Oberzaucher
  • Truls ThorstensenEmail author
  • Karl GrammerEmail author


Over evolutionary time, humans have developed a selective sensitivity to features in the human face that convey information on sex, age, emotions, and intentions. This ability might not only be applied to our conspecifics nowadays, but also to other living objects (i.e., animals) and even to artificial structures, such as cars. To investigate this possibility, we asked people to report the characteristics, emotions, personality traits, and attitudes they attribute to car fronts, and we used geometric morphometrics (GM) and multivariate statistical methods to determine and visualize the corresponding shape information. Automotive features and proportions are found to covary with trait perception in a manner similar to that found with human faces. Emerging analogies are discussed. This study should have implications for both our understanding of our prehistoric psyche and its interrelation with the modern world.


Automobiles Faces Geometric morphometrics Human perception Maturity Trait allocation 



We want to thank Anika Bruns for her great support, and F. James Rohlf for his valuable comments and for the adjustment of his program tpsPLS for our purpose. We are also grateful to three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful remarks. This work was funded by a research grant from EFS Unternehmensberatung, and, in part, by the Austrian Council for Science and Technology grant GZ 200.093/I-VI/I/2004 and the EU FP6 Marie Curie Actions grant MRTN-CT-2005-019564 (EVAN).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonja Windhager
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dennis E. Slice
    • 2
    • 4
  • Katrin Schaefer
    • 2
  • Elisabeth Oberzaucher
    • 1
  • Truls Thorstensen
    • 3
    Email author
  • Karl Grammer
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology, Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.EFS Unternehmensberatung GmbHViennaAustria
  4. 4.Department of Scientific ComputingFlorida State University, Dirac Science LibraryTallahasseeUSA

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