The impact of facial abnormalities and their spatial position on perception of cuteness and attractiveness of infant faces

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Abstract

Research has demonstrated that how “cute” an infant is perceived to be has consequences for caregiving. Infants with facial abnormalities receive lower ratings of cuteness, but relatively little is known about how different abnormalities and their location affect these aesthetic judgements. The objective of the current study was to compare the impact of different abnormalities on the perception of infant faces, while controlling for infant identity. In two experiments, adult participants gave ratings of cuteness and attractiveness in response to face images that had been edited to introduce common facial abnormalities. Stimulus faces displayed either a haemangioma (a small, benign birth mark), strabismus (an abnormal alignment of the eyes) or a cleft lip (an abnormal opening in the upper lip). In Experiment 1, haemangioma had less of a detrimental effect on ratings than the more severe abnormalities. In Experiment 2, we manipulated the position of a haemangioma on the face. We found small but robust effects of this position, with abnormalities in the top and on the left of the face receiving lower cuteness ratings. This is consistent with previous research showing that people attend more to the top of the face (particularly the eyes) and to the left hemifield.

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Lewis, J., Roberson, D., & Foulsham, T. (2017). The impact of facial abnormalities and their spatial position on perception of cuteness and attractiveness of infant faces. PLoS ONE, 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180499

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