Manipulation of infant-like traits affects perceived cuteness of infant, adult and cat faces

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Physical traits that are characteristic of human infants are referred to as baby-schema, and the notion that these affect perception of cuteness and elicit care giving from adults has a long history. In this study, infant-similarity was experimentally manipulated using the difference between adult and infant faces. Human infant, human adult and cat faces were manipulated to look more (human) infant-like or adult-like. The results from the current study demonstrate the impact of infant-similarity on human adults' perception of cuteness across the three different types of face. The type of face had a large impact on perceived cuteness in line with the expected infant-similarity of the images. Infants and cats were cutest while adults were less cute. The manipulations of infant-similarity, however, had similar effects on the perception of cuteness across all three types of face. Faces manipulated to have infant-like traits were rated as cuter than their equivalents manipulated to have adult-like traits. These data demonstrate that baby-like traits have a powerful hold over human perceptions and that these effects are not simply limited to infant faces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-782
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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