The Allure of Sparkling Surfaces

Published on December 11, 2017


Gift giving season is here, and with it, vivid images of shiny objects vying for attention.

But diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend just because they’re pretty, and a shiny new car doesn’t mesmerize your husband just because it’s the fastest thing on four wheels.
A Bauer College study suggests our evolutionary makeup may be the reason why humans are attracted to glossy surfaces.

Marketing Professor Vanessa Patrick, Ph.D., MBA, and two other research colleagues conducted six studies with children and adults to understand why people consistently show a preference for shiny surfaces. The researchers systematically ruled out other factors for the preference such as socialization and visual appeal and concluded that our preference for glossy is linked to the need for water.

“This paper shows that our preference for glossy might be deep-rooted and very human,” says Patrick. “Despite our sophistication and progress as a species, we are still drawn to things that serve our innate needs — in this case, the need for water as a fundamental resource for survival.”

“Given the globalization of business, marketers need to identify human universals that they can rely on,” she added. “Knowing that the preference for glossy is innate (not cultural) could help a marketer create packaging, logos, brand signatures and product designs that would be effective regardless of cultural differences.”
Patrick’s study appeared in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and has been the focus of several national media stories, including CNN.

By Julie Bonnin