Homo Consumericus

The nature and nurture of consumption

Men: You’re Only As Good-Looking As The Car That You’re Driving.

Hot Car = Hot Man. Cheap Car = Not So Hot Man.

Some readers might recall an earlier post wherein I discussed how women evaluate the desirability of the same man in radically different ways as a function of the clothes that he is wearing. Given women's preference for men who are of high social status (or who otherwise possess abilities for ascending the social hierarchy), high-status clothes are viewed as particularly attractive on a man. Along those lines, in chapter 3 of my forthcoming trade book, The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, I demonstrate how men and women use a variety of products to make themselves more desirable on the mating market.

One such product used by men is the proverbial sexy car. Men are overwhelmingly more likely to be car collectors, as well as being the majority of owners of the most expensive sports luxury cars (e.g., Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis). Ultimately such vehicles serve as honest signals of one's high social standing akin to how the peacock's tail is an honest signal of phenotypic quality. In one of my earliest posts, I discussed a 2009 study that I published with one of my former graduate students (John Vongas) wherein we demonstrated that men's testosterone levels rise subsequent to driving a Porsche. In other words, endowing a man with a potent status symbol triggers an endocrinological response, typically seen when a man experiences a social/competitive victory. In a more recent post, I discussed how the social status of the car that an individual is driving affects the likelihood that he'll be bullied (less likely if driving a high-status car) or will bully others on the road (more likely if driving a high-status car).

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In today's post, I'd like to briefly discuss two recent car-related studies that tackled the following issue: Take the same individual and place him/her in (or next to) one of several cars of varying levels of prestige. Would attractiveness ratings (of the individual in question) differ across car conditions? In other words, would the same person be viewed as physically more attractive when next to a high-status versus a low-status car? Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle showed photos of either a male or female target sitting in either a Bentley Continental (higher status) or Ford Fiesta (lower status). The targets were rated on a 1-10 attractiveness scale. Whereas male participants did not differ in their ratings of the female target as a function of the car condition, female participants rated the male target as more attractive when in the high-status car. In a similar study but using the hot or not website, Gregory A. Shuler and David M. McCord posted the photo of the same man (at different time periods) either standing alone or next to one of three cars of varying levels of luxury (dilapidated Dodge Neon, Ford Focus, and Mercedes C Class C300). The site is expressly designed to elicit ratings of attractiveness for any given target (whose photo is uploaded on the site). Similarly to the Dunn and Searle study, the man was rated as more attractive when standing next to the high-status car (as compared to the no-car and lowest-status car conditions).

Aston_Martin_DB7_Vantage
Unlike the popular maxim that suggests that the owner of a fancy sports car is overcompensating for a small penis (Freudian babble?), it would seem that owning a sports car is the fast track to being perceived as physically attractive by the ladies. Gentlemen: Start saving up for that Aston Martin DB7!

Source for Images:

http://bit.ly/g5bgpO

[Image courtesy of autoclipart.com]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aston_Martin_DB7_Vantage.jpg

 

 

Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing at Concordia University and author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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