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Are average and symmetric faces attractive to infants? Discrimination and looking preferences

Rhodes, G., Geddes, K., Jeffery, L., Dziurawiec, S. and Clark, A. (2002) Are average and symmetric faces attractive to infants? Discrimination and looking preferences. Perception, 31 (3). pp. 315-321.

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Young infants prefer to look at faces that adults find attractive, suggesting a biological basis for some face preferences. However, the basis for infant preferences is not known. Adults find average and symmetric faces attractive. We examined whether 5 - 8-month-old infants discriminate between different levels of averageness and symmetry in faces, and whether they prefer to look at faces with higher levels of these traits. Each infant saw 24 pairs of female faces. Each pair consisted of two versions of the same face differing either in averageness (12 pairs) or symmetry (12 pairs). Data from the mothers confirmed that adults preferred the more average and more symmetric versions in each pair. The infants were sensitive to differences in both averageness and symmetry, but showed no looking preference for the more average or more symmetric versions. On the contrary, longest looks were significantly longer for the less average versions, and both longest looks and first looks were marginally longer for the less symmetric versions. Mean looking times were also longer for the less average and less symmetric versions, but those differences were not significant. We suggest that the infant looking behaviour may reflect a novelty preference rather than an aesthetic preference.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: Pion
Copyright: Pion
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