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ABSTRACT

Consumer products have long been known to influence observers’ impressions of product owners. The angle at which products are visually portrayed in advertisements, however, may be an overlooked factor in these effects. We hypothesize and find that portrayals of the same product from different viewpoints can prime different associations that color impressions of product and owner in parallel ways. In Study 1, automobiles were rated higher on status- and power-related traits (e.g., dominant, powerful) when portrayed head-on versus in side profile, an effect found for sport utility vehicles (SUVs)—a category with a reputation for dominance—but not sedans. In Study 2, these portrayal-based associations influenced the impressions formed about the product's owner: a target person was rated higher on status- and power-related traits when his SUV was portrayed head-on versus in side profile. These results suggest that the influence of visual portrayal extends beyond general evaluations of products to affect more specific impressions of products and owners alike, and highlight that primed traits are likely to influence impressions when compatible with other knowledge about the target.