Have you been salivating over the thought of buying that new Ford Mustang Boss 302 or Ferrari 458 Italia? If so, you’re not alone. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research indicates that cars can literally make men drool.
In “A Mouth-Watering Prospect: Salivation to Material Reward,” David Gal, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, details an experiment where a group of students were asked to look at pictures of sports cars and have their saliva collected with cotton dental rolls, which were then weighed. The result was a 36 percent increase in saliva production. But it might not just be the cars that got them hot and bothered.
The subjects of the study were first primed to think about the prospect of mating by being shown photos of three women and asked to imagine going on a date with one. Without this added stimulus, the increase in saliva was nearly insignificant, a scant 8 percent. The findings suggest, then, that cars are seen by men as means to a more salacious end, but one deeply seeded in the human psyche.
Similarly, in a separate experiment, subjects primed to feel powerless had the same response to images of money, while those put in a more powerful position showed less of a response.
Why these things make one salivate is unclear, as the act's main function is to facilitate the consumption of food. Gal theorizes that “it might be that early in development salivation becomes associated with the facilitation of food consumption, subsequently becomes associated with the anticipation of food, and ultimately generalizes to other rewards.”
In any event, the next time you see a car commercial featuring a scantily-clad model it’s going to make a lot more sense. Just don’t forget to have a napkin handy.