Female and male responses to cuteness, age and emotion in infant faces

Janek S. Lobmaier, Reiner Sprengelmeyer, Ben Wiffen, David I. Perrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Neonatal features in the newborn are thought to trigger parental care, the most fundamental prosocial behaviour. The underlying mechanisms that release parental care have not yet been resolved. Here we report sex differences in the ability to discriminate cues to cuteness despite equivalence in the capability to discriminate age and facial expression. These differences become apparent in a task where adults were asked to choose the cuter of two babies. While women could reliably choose the cuter infant, men had more difficulty in doing so. When showing the exact same face pairs but asking to choose the younger or the happier baby, there was no sex difference. These results suggest that the sex difference in the ability to discriminate cues to cuteness in infants underlies female-specific emotive responses. We argue that this reactivity expressed by women evolved to ensure that a female allocates her caretaking resources to her youngest offspring while it needs mothering care. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010

Keywords

  • Neonatal features
  • Infant cuteness
  • Parental care
  • Sex difference
  • Face perception
  • HEAD

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