UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Larger vehicles are perceived as more aggressive, angry, dominant, and masculine Pazhoohi, Farid; Kingstone, Alan


Humans have evolved the cognitive ability to perceive and associate dominance, masculinity, and emotions to animals and humans of larger sizes. Previous research has shown that humans are able to anthropomorphize nonbiological objects such as cars and attribute different characteristics to them. We hypothesized that larger vehicles are perceived and processed in a similar fashion as other biological agents, and are therefore considered more aggressive, dominant, and masculine compared to smaller vehicles. This study investigated the effect of vehicles’ size on the perception of dominance, masculinity, anger, and hostility. A total of 221 individuals (139 men and 82 women) participated in the study and rated vehicles of large and small sizes on four dimensions of Submissive-Dominant, Angry-Happy, Masculine-Feminine, and Hostile-Friendly. Results showed that participants rated larger vehicles as more dominant, angry, hostile, and masculine than smaller vehicles, supporting the proposal that, similar to biological agents, large vehicles are more threatening and are associated with higher dominance. Moreover, while men and women responded to size in a similar manner, the ratings of anger, masculinity, and hostility for large vehicles increased with the age of participants. The implications of this work are considered, including ways to enhance the social acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

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