Human preferences for facial attractiveness appear to emerge at an early stage during infant development. A number of studies have demonstrated that infants display a robust preference for facial attractiveness, preferring to look at physically attractive faces versus less attractive faces as judged by adults. However, to-date, relatively little is known about which traits of the face infants use to base these preferences upon. In contrast, a large number of studies conducted with human adults have identified that preference for attractive faces can be attributed to a number of specific facial traits. The purpose of the experiments here was to measure and assess infant's visual preference via eye-tracker technology for faces manipulated for one of three traits known to effect attractiveness judgments in adult preference tests: symmetry, averageness, and sexually dimorphic traits. Sixty-four infants (28 female and 36 male) aged between 12 and 24 months old each completed a visual paired comparison (VPC) task for one of the three facial dimensions investigated. Data indicated that infants displayed a significant visual preference for facial symmetry analogous to those preferences displayed by adults. Infants also displayed a significant visual preference for feminine versions of faces, in line with some studies of adult preferences. Visual preferences for facial non-averageness, or distinctiveness were also seen, a pattern opposite to that seen in adults. These findings demonstrate that infant's appreciation for facial attractiveness in adult images between the ages of 12 and 24 months of age is based on some, but not all, traits that adults find attractive.
- Visual preference