1. Perception is always multisensory
One of the most relevant findings provided by cognitive neuroscience is certainly related to the way in which the brain integrates information coming from different sources, for creating the perception of an object or product. That is, the different features of a product, such as its color, shape, odor, tactile feel, sound and so on, are rarely processed in isolation by our neural system. A number of interactions occur among them, and our final perception is much more than a mere sum of these characteristics.
This also means that a certain aspect of a container (such as its color or texture) can affect the perception of a different aspect of its content (weight or odor). For example, in our laboratory at University of Milan-Bicocca, we showed that the color and the weight of a container can affect the taste (and the overall evaluation) of mineral water contained inside.
Similarly, we used emotion-related visual images to change the perception of pleasantness and roughness of everyday materials, when explored by touch. Perception is always a blend of sensory attributes and a packaging designer should never forget that.
Sometime even the sound of a product’s name can be effective in modulating people’s judgments. For example, we demonstrated that, by sticking labels with meaningless names on water containers—composed of higher rather than lower pitch sounds—people perceived and rated differently the content. Such results are likely to rely on some natural associations (learned or genetically determined) between different classes of stimuli in our brain.
Note that, in the animal kingdom, the pitch of a vocalization sound is often used to estimate the size of a competitor and, in this context, it is relevant for survival. Sometimes design should also capitalize on the fact that our brains (and their working principles) are not so different from those of our animal ancestors.
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