Happiness sells : the impact of emotional pareidolic face configurations on cognition, product perception and consumer attitudes

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16202
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 202050009
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Seeing facial configurations in non-face objects – i.e. face pareidolia – is a ubiquitous psychological experience that commonly manifests itself within product design. Yet, there has been little investigation into the detection of emotional pareidolic face configurations in everyday products, as well as consumer attitudes and individual differences regarding these. To explore this, a series of image rating tasks and a visual cueing paradigm were formulated to quantitatively assess the effect of pareidolia on cognition, product perception and consumer attitudes. Like real faces, consumers (N = 37) could detect and label core emotions within pareidolic products, with happy faces being most accurately detected. Moreover, products with happy, surprised, and angry pareidolic content were most likely to capture the interest of and intrigue consumers (N = 102), though only happy products retained this advantage for intention to purchase. A general aversion was also shown towards products in which disgust was perceived, for all attitudinal measures. These trends were consistent across consumer types, with limited evidence for the role of psychological variables in consumers’ response to pareidolia; only low mood (negatively) and social isolation (positively) predicted consumers’ interest in pareidolic products. However, no differences were found in response times when comparing consumers’ (N = 22) implicit attentional capture of pareidolic versus non-pareidolic product images. Integrated findings provide evidence that emotion plays a salient yet complex role in the interpretation of pareidolic products – consumers’ appraisals were impacted by emotion perception, as opposed to a general preference for products with faces of any kind. Implications for product designers are explored; there is potential for pareidolia to be deployed as a design tool to aid social isolation, and it is recommended that designers include pareidolic configurations with a positive valence (i.e. happy) and avoid those with a negative valence (i.e. disgust) to maximise product engagement and purchase intention.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Wodehouse, Andrew
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2021
Related items
Embargo Note
  • This thesis is permanently restricted to Strathclyde users only