Isn’t It Cute: An Evolutionary Perspective of Baby-Schema Effects in Visual Product Designs
Linda Miesler, Helmut Leder, Andreas Herrmann


Through applying an evolutionary approach, we examined affective consumer responses to facial features in product designs. Previous studies have suggested that consumers might perceive the fronts of cars similarly to how they perceive human faces, but how consumers respond on an affective level to evolutionarily significant features when they are part of artifacts such as product designs has not been thoroughly studied. Therefore, we studied affective responses to features of an important stimulus that is known to elicit affect and approach behavior: the baby schema. We tested whether the affective responses to this stimulus were generalized to product designs, and how stable these generalized responses were over repeated exposures. We manipulated car fronts - and faces as controls - in accordance with the baby schema (e.g., by enlarging the headlights/eyes). Combining facial electromyography with cuteness ratings to assess innate affective responses, we found that our participants (n = 57) showed more positive affective responses to the babyfaced car fronts than to the original stimuli, and that the effect of the baby-schema features on positive affect was stable over two repeated exposures, thus did not show effects of fast habituation. These results confirm that consumers’ affective responses to visual product designs are affected by evolutionarily-implemented features.

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