PSYCH  Vol.3 No.7 , July 2012
Bottle Shape Elicits Gender-Specific Emotion: A Startle Reflex Modulation Study
Does a bottle elicit a gender-specific emotion response that varies as a function of its shape? The answer to this question is of basic interest as well as of specific interest to the industry. We introduced startle reflex modulation to objectively measure emotion-related aspects of different bottles. This approach was chosen to complete behavioural data with objective physiological data. Three bottles differing only in shape were used as test stimuli. It is well known that the magnitude of an eye blink as a response to acoustic startle stimulation reflects current emotion elicited by a foreground stimulus. Reduced eye blink amplitudes reflect positive emotion, whereas enhanced eye blink amplitudes reflect negative emotion. No significant main effect of bottle shape on eye blink amplitudes was found, but a significant gender effect occurred for one specific bottle shape. Presentation of a medium-sized, polygonal bottle was associated with significantly larger eye blink amplitudes in male participants compared to female participants. We interpret that due to the nature of startle reflex modulation this particular bottle shape elicited a significantly more negative emotion in males than in females. Interestingly, although both genders rated this bottle least attractive only males demonstrated increased negative emotion as assessed with startle reflex modulation. It is difficult to further interpret this finding at this stage, but we discuss it in terms of providing evidence that startle reflex modulation is sensitive to subtle emotion-related differences of different bottle shapes. Thus, this method may become an important tool for product evaluation procedures. We can only speculate on what the gender effect means in terms of psychology. A link between emotion and the appreciation of aesthetics can be made.

Cite this paper
Grahl, A. , Greiner, U. & Walla, P. (2012). Bottle Shape Elicits Gender-Specific Emotion: A Startle Reflex Modulation Study. Psychology, 3, 548-554. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.37081.
[1]   Berridge, K. C., & Winkielman, P. (2003). What is an unconscious emotion? The case for unconscious “liking”. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 181-211. doi:10.1080/02699930302289

[2]   Biele, C., & Grabowska, A. (2006). Sex differences in perception of emotion intensity in dynamic and static facial expressions. Experi- mental Brain Research, 171, 1-6. doi:10.1007/s00221-005-0254-0

[3]   Bradley, M. M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang P. J. (1990). Startle reflex modification: Emotion or attention? Psychophysiology, 27, 513-522. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.1990.tb01966.x

[4]   Bradley, M. M., & Lang, P. J. (2000). Measuring emotions: Behaviour, feeling and physiology. In: R. Lane, & L. Nadel (Eds.), Cognitive neuroscience of emotion (pp. 242-276). New York: Oxford Univer- sity Press.

[5]   Cahill, L., Haier, R. J., White, N. S., Fallon, J., Kilpatrick, L., Lawrence, C., Potkin, S. G., & Alkire, M. T. (2001). Sex-related difference in amygdala activity during emotionally influenced memory storage. Neurobiol. Learning and Memory, 75, 1-9. doi:10.1006/nlme.2000.3999

[6]   Cahill, L., Uncapher, M., Kilpatrick, L., Alkire, M. T., & Turner, J. (2004). Sex-related hemispheric lateralisation of amygdala function in emotionally influenced memory: An fMRI investigation. Learning and Memory, 11, 261-266. doi:10.1101/lm.70504

[7]   Crilly, N., Moultrie, J., & Clarkson, P. J. (2004). Seeing things: Consumer response to the visual domain in product design. Design Studies, 25, 547-577. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2004.03.001

[8]   Cuthbert, B. N., Bradley, M. M., & Lang, P. J. (1996). Probing picture perception: Activation and emotion. Psychophysiology, 33, 103-111. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.1996.tb02114.x

[9]   Dunning, J., Auriemmo, A., Castille, C., & Hajcak, G. (2010). In the face of anger: Startle modulation to graded facial expressions. Psychophysiology, 47, 874-878.

[10]   Filion, D. L., Dawson, M. E., & Schell, M. (1998). The psychological significance of human startle eye blink modification: A review. Biological Psychology, 47, 1-43. doi:10.1016/S0301-0511(97)00020-3

[11]   Geiser, M., & Walla, P. (2011). Objective measures of emotion during virtual walks through urban environments. Applied Sciences, 1, 1-11.

[12]   Gray, J. R., Braver, T. S., & Raichle, M. E. (2002). Integration of emotion and cognition in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 99, 4115-4120. doi:10.1073/pnas.062381899

[13]   Hekkert, P., & Desmet, P. M. A. (2002). The basis of product emotions. In W. S. Green, & P. W. Jordan (Eds.), Pleasure with products, beyond usability (pp. 61-67). London: Taylor & Francis. doi:10.1201/9780203302279.ch4

[14]   Hekkert, P., & Desmet, P. M. A. (2007). Framework of product experience. International Journal of Design, 1, 57-66.

[15]   Ho, A. G., & Siu, K. W. M. (2010). Role of designers in the new perspective of design and emotion. Design principles and practices: An International Journal, 4, 15-24.

[16]   Holbrook, M. B., & Schindler, R. M. (1994). Age, sex, and attitude toward the past as predictors of consumers’ aesthetic tastes for cultural products. Journal of Marketing Research, 31, 412-422. doi:10.2307/3152228

[17]   Hsiao, K. A., & Chen, L. L. (2006). Fundamental dimensions of affective responses to product shapes. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 36, 553-564. doi:10.1016/j.ergon.2005.11.009

[18]   Jenkins, S. D., Brown, R. D. H., & Rutterford, N. (2009). Comparing thermographic, EEG, and subjective measures of affective experi- ence during simulated product interactions. International Journal of Design, 3, 53-65.

[19]   Kessler, R. C., McGonagle, K. A., & Zhao, S. (1994). Lifetime and 12- month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 8-19. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1994.03950010008002

[20]   Killgore, W. D., Oki, M., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. A. (2001). Sex-specific developmental changes in amygdala responses to affective faces. Neuroreport, 12, 427-433. doi:10.1097/00001756-200102120-00047

[21]   Kleinginna, P. R. Jr., & Kleinginna, A. M. (1981). A categorized list of emotion definitions, with suggestions for a consensual definition. Motivation and Emotion, 5, 345-379. doi:10.1007/BF00992553

[22]   Landis, C., & Hunt, W. A. (1939). The startle pattern. New York: Farrar.

[23]   Laparra-Hernandez, J., Belda-Lois, J. M., Medina, E., Campos, N., & Poveda, R. (2009). EMG and GSR signals for evaluating user’s perception of different types of ceramic flooring. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 39, 326-332. doi:10.1016/j.ergon.2008.02.011

[24]   Moss, G., & Colman, A. M. (2001). Choices and preferences: Experiments on gender differences. Brand Management, 9, 89-99. doi:10.1057/

[25]   Muehlberger, A., Wieser, M. J., & Pauli, P. (2008). Darkness-enhanced startle responses in ecologically valid environments: A virtual tunnel driving experiment. Biological Psychology, 77, 47-52. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.09.004

[26]   Ochsner, K. N., & Phelps, E. (2007). Emerging perspectives on emotion-cognition interactions. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 317- 318. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2007.06.008

[27]   Pessoa, L. (2008). On the relationship between emotion and cognition. Nature Review Neuroscience, 9, 148-158. doi:10.1038/nrn2317

[28]   Vrana, S. R., Spence, E. L., & Lang, P. J. (1988). The startle probe response: A new measure of emotion? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 487-491. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.97.4.487

[29]   Wager, T. D., Phan, K. L., Liberzon, I., & Taylor, S. F. (2003). Valence, gender, and lateralisation of functional brain anatomy in emotion: A meta-analysis of findings from neuroimaging. Neuroimage, 19, 513- 531. doi:10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00078-8

[30]   Walla, P., Hufnagl, B., Lehrner, J., Mayer, D., Lindinger, G., Deecke, L., & Lang, W. (2002). Evidence of conscious and subconscious olfactory information processing during word encoding: A magnetoencephalographic (MEG) study. Cognitive Brain Research, 14, 309-316. doi:10.1016/S0926-6410(02)00121-0

[31]   Walla, P., Hufnagl, B., Lehrner, J., Mayer, D., Lindinger, G., Imhof, H., Deecke, L., & Lang, W. (2003). Olfaction and depth of word processing: A magnetoencephalographic (MEG) study. Neuroimage, 18, 104-116. doi:10.1006/nimg.2002.1324

[32]   Walla, P. (2008). Olfaction and its dynamic influence on word and face processing: Cross-modal integration. Progress in Neurobiology, 84, 192-209. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2007.10.005

[33]   Walla, P., Richter, M., F?rber, S., Leodolter, U., & Bauer, H. (2010). Food-evoked changes in humans. Startle response modulation and event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Journal of Psychophysiology, 24, 25-32. doi:10.1027/0269-8803/a000003

[34]   Walla, P., Brenner, G., & Koller, M. (2011). Objective measures of emotion related to brand attitude: A new way to quantify emotion- related aspects relevant to marketing. PLoS ONE, 6, e26782. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026782

[35]   Winkielman, P., & Berridge, K. C. (2004). Unconscious emotion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 120-123. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00288.x

[36]   Xue, L., & Yen, C. C. (2007). Towards female preferences in design— A pilot study. International Journal of Design, 1, 11-27.