Torch, you got it all wrong. Instead of mashing cars together, you should've tried morphing cars and their owners. Then again you might not've noticed that much of a change: it turns out people tend to buy cars whose grilles and headlights resemble their own faces anyway.
While scientists had years ago proved people see cars' fronts like human faces – and that we assign them personalities based on these "faces" – a new study by psychologists Stefan Stiegar and Martin Voracek of the University of Vienna has shown people also tend to buy cars that look like they do.
The study, printed in the Swiss Journal of Psychology, was built around black-and-white photos of 30 people and their cars. (The researchers made sure only to use cars that the owners had somehow selected themselves, and hadn't received as a gift or inheritance, for example.)
Using these images, Stiegar and Voracek made up image sets with the car at the top and six possible owners, including the real one, beneath it. The image sets were handed out to 160 participants, who were asked to rank each of those six possible owners as the most to least likely to own that car (on a scale of one to six, one being most likely).
Stiegar and Voracek suspected the participants – split equally between men and women and across all ages, from 16 to 78 – would be able to tell with better-than-chance odds which car belonged to whom—and they did. The real owner was invariably ranked '1' most frequently, and '6' least frequently.
"The average person can detect a physical similarity in the 'faces' of cars and their owners," summed up research psychologist Jesse Bering in his Scientific American column on the study.
The authors ruled out the possibility participants were working off of gender or status stereotypes by conducting the same test using photos of the car from the rear or side, as well as the front: they found participants' correct answers were better-than-chance only when the image set included the cars' grilles.
Stiegar and Voracek tried one final test, too, based on the results of a recent study that showed people can match owners to their dogs. They showed participants image sets with a car and six dogs, and asked them to rank each dog "on the likelihood of its master being the owner of the car shown."
When the image set included the car's grille, again the odds were way better than chance. "Implied in these results is the startling fact most car owners are unwittingly purchasing cars that look like them," explains Bering. "To top it off, our dogs’ mug shots apparently bear an objective similarity to our cars’ 'faces' as well."