Babies Prefer Attractive Faces

Babies Prefer Attractive Faces
Babies Prefer Attractive Faces

A recent column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reiterated a phrase I have read many times before: that babies prefer attractive faces. Like previous articles on babies and attractive faces, the newspaper column did not list any specific citations. The columnist did include a quote from a University of Texas psychology professor which allowed me to follow the trail to reputable research on babies and attractive faces.

The UT professor, Dr. Judith Langlois, has published a number of papers related to young babies preference for attractive faces. All of Dr. Langlois’ papers on the subject — as well as papers from other researchers — rely on an interesting method to test babies’ preferences.

As early as 1958 researchers have used the time babies spent looking at a specific image as a proxy for babies’ preferences. In the case of Dr. Langlois’ work [described with pictures here], she used a series of televisions with eye-tracking techniques to measure the time each baby spent looking at each face among a similar pair. When babies spent more time looking at one face within each pair, researchers attribute that to babies preferring those faces.

In repeated studies conducted over many years, multiple researchers found that babies as young as 2 days old spent more time looking at faces previously rated as attractive by adults. The results held for gender, race, and age. With each similar pair, babies preferred more attractive male and female faces, white and African-American faces, and adult and infant faces.

Testing newborns as young as 2 days old eliminated the possibility that cultural bias or parental influence would shape babies’ preferences. If 2 day-old babies (who can barely see) prefer looking at attractive faces, then the desire for beauty must be innate rather than learned.

References



Fantz (1958), Pattern vision in young infants, The Psychological Record

Langlois (1987), Infant preferences for attractive faces: rudiments of a stereotype, Developmental Psychology

Langlois (1991), Facial diversity and infant preferences for attractive faces, Developmental Psychology


Rhodes, Geddes, Dziurawiec, and Clark (2002), Are average and symmetric faces attractive to infants? Discrimination and looking preferences, Perception

Slater, Von der Schulenburg, Brown, and Badenoch (1998), Newborn infants prefer attractive faces, Infant Behavior and Development

Slater, Bremner, Johnson, Sherwood, Hayes, and Brown (2000), Newborn infants’ preference for attractive faces: the role of internal and external facial features, Infancy

Slater, Quinn, Hayes, and Brown (2000), The role of facial orientation in newborn infants’ preference for attractive faces, Developmental Science

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