People buy products with faces to stop from feeling so lonely

People prefer products that have faces on the packaging, especially when they are lonely, according to a study published online this month in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

From University of Oregon:

This finding, published online this month in the European Journal of Social Psychology, is rooted in people’s fundamental need to belong and their desire to form and sustain relationships. When humans lack these social connections, they often attempt to fill the void in other ways, including through their purchasing habits.

“Previous research linked our need for social connection with consumer behavior and judgment, but very little was understood about the role that visuals play in social connection and brand likability,” [Prof. Dr. Ulrich] Orth explained. “Our study builds on prior research by demonstrating that seeing a face in a brand visual increases a consumer’s liking of the brand, especially if they feel lonely.”

To be effective, the face on the label does not need to be as obvious as the one smiling back at [University of Oregon professor Bettina] Cornwell from the bag of potato chips in the hotel gift shop. Consumers often imagine humanlike characteristics in nonhuman visuals, a process also known as anthropomorphism. Orth explains that loneliness can enhance people’s tendency to exhibit this kind of “wishful seeing” and is most apparent in the case of faces.

“A lack of interpersonal relationships motivates people to actively search for sources of connection,” Cornwell said. “Individuals who are lonely are more likely to find faces in visuals because they so greatly desire this social connection.”

Image: Kevin Harber/Flickr

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