Neurodesign: The new frontier of packaging and product design: Page 4 of 4

By Alberto Gallace in Packaging Design on October 27, 2015

3. The relevance of tactile information

Touch is certainly one of the most important sensory modality in driving consumer behavior. In fact, touch is the first sensory modality to develop in the womb and our very first interactions in life have an important tactile content.

Our brain certainly does not forget such a relevant value.

Neuroscience strongly supports the important role of touch in our perception and emotional wellbeing. In fact, it has been shown that humans are endowed with a receptive system (known as C tactile fibers) that is specifically dedicated to code for pleasant touch. Moreover, those areas of the brain responsible for the perception of pleasure (see earlier in text), seem to respond specifically to pleasant sensations, such as the feel of velvet on the skin. Not surprisingly then, a number of remarkable effects related to the presentation of tactile content to humans have been reported.

Most marketers now know that people are more likely to buy something if they are allowed to touch it first. As a consequence, a number of packaging companies have started to make holes in their containers, to allow for a direct tactile interaction with the product.

However, the feel of the packaging itself might be very effective (or very deleterious in some cases) to drive a consumer’s behavior.

A study published a few years ago in the prestigious journal Science, has shown that it is sufficient to manipulate a tactile quality of a container to change the evaluation of its content (and the actions based on that evaluation). In that case, a panel of experts rated the exact same curriculum vitae as more solid and appropriate, when contained in a hard as compared to a soft cover.

In our laboratory, we also showed that the direct contact with everyday materials elicit stronger physiological reactions than the mere sight of them (even when participants rate the visual and tactile features of the materials as equally arousing). Considering our previous discussion on the importance of physiological reactions for orienting consumer’s behavior (see point 2 above), every designer should exploit the power of this sensory modality while creating new packaging or products.  

In conclusion, given the fierce competition and the rising challenges in this field, there are no doubts that designers, engineers and cognitive neuroscientists will work side by side, more than ever before, to create the most successful packaging and products of the future.  


Alberto Gallace, Ph.D.,  is a cognitive neuroscientist at University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. His scientific work on multisensory interactions helps to design products and services that naturally appeal to our senses and emotions (neurally-inspired experience design). Reach him at [email protected].



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