Volvo experiment reveals that car design evokes range of feelings

(November 30, 2013) The first scientific experiment of its kind has revealed that beautiful car design can tangibly evoke a powerful range of feelings that are on a par with the most basic of human emotions. The scientific experiment, conducted by Volvo Car Group (Volvo Cars) in collaboration with EEG specialists Myndplay, tested respondents to analyze how the brain reacts emotionally to car design and how design aesthetics actually make us feel.

EEG is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp and measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain. The experiment proved that humans react
emotionally to the shape of a car, with men in particular seeming almost genetically programmed to like sleek design with beautiful lines.

The experiment was conducted to coincide with the launch of the Volvo Concept Coupé, the first expressive interpretation of Volvo’s new design strategy aimed at building a more emotive connection with the brand. 

Participants were asked to rate a series of images while wearing a dry sensor EEG headset that measured brainwave activity in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. The images included the new Volvo Concept Coupé alongside perceived ‘bad’ and ‘out-dated’ car design, visuals of happy/crying babies and men & women considered to be ‘beautiful’.

Thomas Ingenlath, senior vice president design at Volvo Cars, said: “This survey finally proves what we’ve always suspected. Beautiful car design can elicit strong emotional responses ranging from a positive frame of mind to a sense of empowerment.”

    • Men experienced more emotion whilst looking at images of beautiful car design than they did whilst looking at an image of a crying child
    • Women displayed an emotional intensity to the picture of a crying baby which almost doubled that of male participants
    • 74% of men claimed that good design made them feel positive
    • Only 33% of women rated images of car design higher than an image of an attractive man
    • 60% of men claimed that driving a beautiful car makes them feel confident and empowered

Dr David Lewis, a UK leader in the neuroscience of consumerism and communications stated: “Appreciating an aesthetically pleasing design is an experience which combines understanding and emotions. These are so closely intertwined that it is impossible to distinguish between them. Aesthetic experience involves a unity of sensuous delight, meaningful interpretation, and emotional involvement."

A parallel survey conducted by OnePoll revealed that 43% of men said that they found the car shape and design to be the most appealing aspect, over the interior, gadgets, wheels and engine. The front of the car was the most attractive feature for men, in contrast to the reaction from women where the rear of the car scored the most highly.
Volvo Cars' world first experiment reveals the emotive power of car design

The only image both men and women shared the same reaction was that of a crying baby. They both expressed the highest emotional intensity and the highest negative score of all images. Women displayed the most emotional response to the crying baby, whereas men demonstrated more emotion looking at pictures of beautiful car design than to the picture of the distressed child.

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