A Tiger and a President: Imperceptible Celebrity Facial Cues Influence Trust and Preference
Neuroscientific research suggests that the brain has evolved specific capabilities enabling automatic social judgments of others to be made based on facial properties alone. However, little research in marketing has considered the consequences of how facial imagery is automatically processed. We explore automatic perceptions of familiarity by using morphing software to digitally combine unfamiliar faces with those of Tiger Woods and George Bush. Despite a complete lack of conscious recognition, trustworthiness ratings of the composite faces are clearly influenced by the celebrities in question. This appears to be due to implicit recognition being sufficient for individuals to automatically access their own summary valence judgments of either Woods or Bush. Alternative explanations based on a perceptual-fluency account, or implicit recognition sufficient to perceive specific trait ratings, are ruled out. These findings suggest that the marketing practice of digitally manipulating the attractiveness of facial imagery risks overlooking the important influence of familiarity.
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