ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (5): 680-691.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00680

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Is “He” frowning on Me? The impact of facial expression on customer attitude

XIE Zhipeng1; WANG Tao2   

  1. (1 School of Business and Administration, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan 430073, China) (2 Economics and Management School, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China)
  • Received:2016-05-05 Published:2017-05-25 Online:2017-05-25
  • Contact: XIE Zhipeng, E-mail: WANG Tao, E-mail:


The appearance of the product provides an intuitive way of expressing emotion and value to its customers. Prior researches on anthropomorphism suggested that customers may see human related features in a product. Many researchers focus their attention on the human side of the products, yet few of them have studied the facial expressions in product design. In this research, the researchers discovered that the customers constantly extract facial expressions from products, and use them as cues in product evaluation. The researchers believe that the perceived luxury has a contradictory effect on customers’ perception of products with different expressions. In Study 1, the researchers conducted an online experiment which involved 132 participants. The participants read about different descriptions of cars. Then, the researchers presented the participants with pictures of the same car showing different facial expressions. After the participants finished assessing the pictures, they were required to indicate their attitude towards each car design. The result of Study 1 proved that customers prefer friendly face when the product is considered low in perceived luxury. In Study 2, the researchers used similar approaches to examine the impact of level of luxury on customer’s attitude towards different facial expressions. But instead of cars, the researchers chose phones as the main body of stimuli design to see whether the result can be applied to a broader context. 160 participants took part in an offline experiment. They were assigned randomly into 2 separate groups and showed descriptions of different levels of luxury. Then, they were required to report their attitude towards phones with different facial expressions. The purpose of Study 3 was to examine the mediation effect of perceived product autonomy. In this study, the researchers used brand logo designs with different facial expressions. The result of this research indicates that product’s aggressive expressions can give rise to customer attitude only for products positioned as premium or luxury; while for ordinary brands, aggressive expressions may do more harm than good. This effect is mediated by customer perceive product autonomy. This research is among the first endeavors to reveal the relationship between facial personification and customer attitude. It provides both managers and researchers guidelines to manage the facial expressions in product design.

Key words: product design, facial expression, autonomy, perceived luxury, social status.