Does your car remind you of anyone? When you look at its bonnet and grille, do you see a face staring back at you? If you do, you’re not alone…
Four years ago, the Corsa parted company with its V-shaped grille, making way for a chrome bar that carried the redesigned Griffin badge. A new front bumper and Vauxhall’s “Eagle-Eye” headlamps, which made their debut on the Meriva, gave the Corsa a friendly, smiley ‘face’.
And who doesn’t associate the front of a car with a face? It’s easy to see the eyes in the headlights, the nose in the bonnet or the grille, and a mouth in the grille or the bumper.
Whatever the model, the design team works hard to create a car with a face you can identify with. Cars really do have faces that fit their personalities, and identifying them comes from the part of a human brain that is especially keen to recognise and remember faces. After all, faces are the most prominent form of identifying other people that we use.
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in America got car experts to look at the fronts of cars, and discovered that this activated the same area of the brain involved in facial recognition.
“Humans are programmed to remember faces better than a lot of other things.”
That area is called the ‘fusiform face area’ (FFA), and for a long time people thought that its only job was to recognise faces. But this study found “no evidence that there is a special area devoted exclusively to facial recognition.” Instead, they found that the FFA of the car experts was filled with small, interspersed patches that respond strongly to photos of faces and cars alike.
It might seem silly to spend so much time thinking about how we see car faces, but this kind of facial recognition is an important and different way of storing information. Humans are programmed to remember faces better than a lot of other things. You probably remember the face of the waiter who served you in a restaurant far longer than you remember the colour of the tablecloths or style of chairs.
So, go and check out your Vauxhall and see what – or who – its face reminds you of…