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Journal ArticleDOI

Perceiving infant faces

01 Feb 2016-Current opinion in psychology (Elsevier)-Vol. 7, pp 87-91
TL;DR: This work suggests that sex hormones have dissociable effects on the reward value of and perceptual sensitivity to infant facial cuteness and that attitudes and behavior toward infants displaying cues of kinship are complex processes influenced by individual differences.
Abstract: Evolutionary theories have long been used to generate testable predictions about responses to adult facial cues in the contexts of mate choice, cooperation, and intrasexual competition, among others. More recently, researchers have also used evolutionary theories to guide research on responses to infant facial cues. Here we review some of this work, focusing on research investigating hormonal regulation of responses to infant facial cuteness and the role of kinship cues in perceptions of infant faces. These studies suggest that sex hormones have dissociable effects on the reward value of and perceptual sensitivity to infant facial cuteness. They also suggest that attitudes and behavior toward infants displaying cues of kinship are complex processes influenced by individual differences.

Summary (1 min read)

Introduction

  • Almost all evolutionary research on face perception has focused on adult faces, typically concerning judgments in the contexts of mate choice (i.e., judgments of adults' facial attractiveness), cooperation (i.e., judgments of adults' facial trustworthiness), or intrasexual competition (i.e., judgments of adults' facial dominance).
  • Far less research has examined responses to infant facial cues.
  • This is particularly surprising given evidence that the mechanisms for processing infant and adult faces can be, at least partly, dissociated [4] , suggesting that 3 responses to infant facial cues are not solely a byproduct of mechanisms and processes that evolved primarily for the assessment of adult faces.
  • Here the authors review evidence from two areas of research on infant facial cues that have been informed by evolutionary theories: hormonal regulation of responses to infant cuteness and the role of kinship cues in perceptions of infant faces.

Hormonal regulation of responses to infant cuteness

  • Links between between sex hormone levels and parental behavior are well established (reviewed in [5] ).
  • Early results that were presented as evidence for this proposal came from studies reporting that women were better than men at correctly discriminating between high-and low-cuteness versions of infant faces [6, 9] .
  • Other studies also suggest that these between-group differences in cuteness discrimination may not be robust.
  • Some studies have reported similar performance on infant cuteness discrimination tasks in women using and not using hormonal contraceptives [10] and in men and women (e.g., [13] ).
  • While the studies described above tested for evidence of hormonal regulation of responses to infant facial cuteness using between-groups comparisons, more recent studies investigating this issue have focused on within-person comparisons.

The role of kinship cues in the perception of infant faces

  • While research on the hormonal regulation of perception of infant facial cuteness generally focuses on women's perceptions, research on perceptions of family resemblance in infant faces generally focuses on men's perceptions.
  • Theoretical assessments of the costs and benefits of advertising paternity have come to mixed conclusions, with some suggesting that moderate non-paternity rates should select for infants who do not signal their paternity [31, 32] , and others suggesting that higher rates of non-paternity will select for infants who actively resemble their fathers [33] .
  • In studies conducted in Canada [42] , Mexico [43] and the United States [40] , newborns' resemblance is ascribed to their fathers significantly more than to their mothers, at least by mothers and their families.
  • Further work eliminating such confounds from the experimental design has either shown no sex difference in attitudes towards self-resembling infants [47] or a sex difference in the opposite direction [48] .
  • This work can potentially reconcile the inconsistent sex differences in the previous literature.

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Citations
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: It is shown that the orbitofrontal cortex contains cells that first discriminate face from nonface stimuli, then categorize faces by their intrinsic sociodemographic and emotional content, showing a substantial role of the OFC in the characterizations of facial information bearing on social and emotional behavior.
Abstract: Perceiving social and emotional information from faces is a critical primate skill. For this purpose, primates evolved dedicated cortical architecture, especially in occipitotemporal areas, utilizing face-selective cells. Less understood face-selective neurons are present in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and are our object of study. We examined 179 face-selective cells in the lateral sulcus of the OFC by characterizing their responses to a rich set of photographs of conspecific faces varying in age, gender, and facial expression. Principal component analysis and unsupervised cluster analysis of stimulus space both revealed that face cells encode face dimensions for social categories and emotions. Categories represented strongly were facial expressions (grin and threat versus lip smack), juvenile, and female monkeys. Cluster analyses of a control population of nearby cells lacking face selectivity did not categorize face stimuli in a meaningful way, suggesting that only face-selective cells directly support face categorization in OFC. Time course analyses of face cell activity from stimulus onset showed that faces were discriminated from nonfaces early, followed by within-face categorization for social and emotion content (i.e., young and facial expression). Face cells revealed no response to acoustic stimuli such as vocalizations and were poorly modulated by vocalizations added to faces. Neuronal responses remained stable when paired with positive or negative reinforcement, implying that face cells encode social information but not learned reward value associated to faces. Overall, our results shed light on a substantial role of the OFC in the characterizations of facial information bearing on social and emotional behavior.

37 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: It is shown that niceness and shyness dimensions generalize to an independent sample of ambient images, demonstrating their robustness and suggesting that social goals have the power to drive functional impressions and highlight the flexibility of the visual system when forming such inferences.
Abstract: Despite warnings not to “judge a book by its cover,” people rapidly form facial impressions. In Oosterhof and Todorov’s (2008) two-dimensional model of facial impressions, trustworthiness, and dominance underlie impressions and primarily function to signal the potential threat of others. Here, we test a key assumption of these models, namely that these dimensions are functional, by evaluating whether the adult-face dimensions apply to young children’s faces. Although it may be functional for adults to judge adult faces on dimensions that signal threat, adults associate different social goals with children, and these goals are likely to impact the impressions adults make of such faces. Thus, a functional approach would predict that the dimensions for children’s faces are not threat focused. In Studies 1 and 2, we build a data-driven model of Caucasian adults’ impressions of Caucasian children’s faces, finding evidence for two dimensions. The first dimension, niceness, is similar (although not identical) to the adult dimension of trustworthiness. However, we find a second dimension, shyness, that is clearly dissociable from dominance (Study 3), and critically, is not focused on threat. We demonstrate that adults are sensitive to subtle facial manipulations of these dimensions (Studies 4 and 5) and that these impressions impact adults’ behavioral expectations of children (Study 6). Finally, we show that niceness and shyness dimensions generalize to an independent sample of ambient images, demonstrating their robustness (Study 7). Our results suggest that social goals have the power to drive functional impressions and highlight the flexibility of our visual system when forming such inferences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

36 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: A recent review of the literature on the evolutionary importance of infant and child facial cues on adults' perceptions and behaviors related to parental care can be found in this paper, where the authors examine the strengths and weaknesses in the methods used to study infants' facial cues, providing estimated effect sizes associated with these data, and offering new theoretical and practical implications for multiple infants' features.
Abstract: Parenting is a complex behavior that involves making a significant investment in 1 or more children. Evolutionary theory predicts that this investment should be a facultative decision based on a cost-benefit analysis. One important source of information for parents regarding this decision may be cues that come directly from the child, such as resemblance to parent, health, age, sex (gender), happiness, and cuteness. Therefore, we review a vibrant, growing body of literature on the evolutionary importance of infant and child facial cues on adults’ perceptions and behaviors related to parental care. While this literature has already generated some review articles, it lacks a comprehensive review of the methods, effect sizes, and theoretical underpinnings of the research. Our review, therefore, focuses on examining the strengths and weaknesses in the methods used to study infant and child facial cues, providing estimated effect sizes associated with these data, and offering new theoretical and practical implications for multiple infant and child facial cues. Overall, our review suggests that infant and child facial cues are potentially important, but underappreciated, factors that can influence evolved parenting behaviors and parent–child interactions.

30 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This exploratory study is the first to describe neural mechanisms involved in paternal protection and provides a basis for future work on fathers’ protective parenting.
Abstract: Perceiving potential threat to an infant and responding to it is crucial for offspring survival and parent–child bonding. Using a combination of functional magnetic resonance imaging and multi-informant reports, this longitudinal study explores the neural basis for paternal responses to threat to infants pre-natally (N = 21) and early post-natally (n = 17). Participants viewed videos showing an infant in danger and matched control videos, while instructed to imagine that the infant was their own or someone else’s. Effects were found for infant-threatening vs neutral situations in the amygdala (region-of-interest analyses) and in clusters spanning cortical and subcortical areas (whole-brain analyses). An interaction effect revealed increased activation for own (vs unknown) infants in threatening (vs neutral) situations in bilateral motor areas, possibly indicating preparation for action. Post-natal activation patterns were similar; however, in part of the superior frontal gyrus the distinction between threat to own and unknown infant faded. Fathers showing more protective behavior in daily life recruited part of the frontal pole more when confronted with threat to their own vs an unknown infant. This exploratory study is the first to describe neural mechanisms involved in paternal protection and provides a basis for future work on fathers’ protective parenting.

20 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This study is the first to demonstrate the first effect in response to infant faces that affects neural activation toward social stimuli depending on elicited arousal and personal characteristics, and adds to specify the role of oxytocin in human social information processing.
Abstract: Infant faces have distinctive features that together are described as baby schema, a configuration that facilitates caregiving motivation and behavior, and increases the perception of cuteness. In the current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we investigated the effect of a within-subjects intranasal oxytocin administration (24 IU) and caregiving motivation on neural responses to infant faces of varying baby schema in 23 healthy nulliparous women. Overall, infant faces elicited activation in several brain regions involved in reward and salience processing, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA), putamen, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and insula, and this activation was related to self-reported caregiving motivation. Critically, whereas we hypothesized enhanced neural caregiving-related responses after oxytocin administration, we observed reduced activation in the VTA, putamen and amygdala after oxytocin compared to placebo. In nulliparous women, oxytocin has been shown to reduce neural responses in the same regions in response to social stimuli using other paradigms. Oxytocin might affect neural activation toward social stimuli depending on elicited arousal and personal characteristics. The current study is the first to demonstrate this effect in response to infant faces and thereby adds to specify the role of oxytocin in human social information processing.

15 citations


Cites background from "Perceiving infant faces"

  • ...Experimental work in the past decades has demonstrated that such a facial configuration, referred to as ‘baby schema’, is related to perceptions of cuteness and positive affective responses (DeBruine et al., 2016), and indeed increases caregiving behavior and motivation, both in parents and in nulliparous adults (Langlois et al....

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References
More filters
Journal ArticleDOI
08 Nov 2001-Neuron
TL;DR: Functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T shows that passive viewing of beautiful female faces activates reward circuitry, in particular the nucleus accumbens.

1,103 citations


"Perceiving infant faces" refers background in this paper

  • ...the same women’s responses on a widely used behavioral measure of stimulus reward value (a standard lever-press task, [21]) showed that women were willing to expend more effort to view images of infant faces in which cuteness had been increased than they were to view images of infant faces in which cuteness had been decreased....

    [...]

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Evolutionary theory predicts that males will provide less parental investment for putative offspring who are unlikely to be their actual offspring, and crossculturally, paternity confidence (a mans ass...
Abstract: Evolutionary theory predicts that males will provide less parental investment for putative offspring who are unlikely to be their actual offspring. Crossculturally, paternity confidence (a mans ass...

331 citations


"Perceiving infant faces" refers background in this paper

  • ...groups studied by Anderson [34], which included both preindustrialised...

    [...]

  • ...Anderson KG, Kaplan H, Lancaster J: Confidence of paternity, divorce, and investment in children by Albuquerque men....

    [...]

  • ...Anderson KG: How well does paternity confidence match actual paternity?...

    [...]

  • ...While mistaken paternity is rare (~2%) among men who have high paternity confidence [34,35], this figure ranged from 0....

    [...]

  • ...6% of these men were correct in their doubt [34]....

    [...]

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors tested a series of hypotheses derived from the view that allegations of resemblance of newborns are motivated responses to the problem of uncertain paternity, and found that mothers tend to be biased toward maternal resemblance, whereas fathers betrayed skepticism or reserve about such allegations.

254 citations


"Perceiving infant faces" refers background in this paper

  • ...In studies conducted in Canada [42], Mexico [43] and the United States [40], newborns’ resemblance is ascribed to their fathers significantly more than to their mothers, at least by mothers and their families....

    [...]

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The relations between infant attractiveness and maternal behavior were examined by observing mothers feeding and playing with their firstborn infants while they were still in the hospital after giving birth and again when the infants were 3 months of age.
Abstract: The relations between infant attractiveness and maternal behavior were examined by observing mothers feeding and playing with their firstborn infants while they were still in the hospital after giving birth (N = 144) and again when the infants were 3 months of age (N= 115). The attitudes of the mothers toward their infants were also assessed. Mothers of more attractive infants were more affectionate and playful compared with mothers of less attractive infants. In contrast, the mothers of less attractive infants were more likely to be attentive to other people rather than to their infant and to engage in routine caregiving rather than affectionate behavior. The attitudes of the mothers of less attractive infants were also more negative than those of mothers of more attractive infants, but the number of differences in attitudes was not as great as the behavioral differences. Queen Victoria, who bore nine children, once said that "an ugly baby is a very nasty object" (Fulford, 1964, p. 191). If current conventional wisdom is true, most modern-day mothers are either not as forthright as the Queen or they have considerably more positive attitudes about unattractive infants. It is commonly assumed that the attractiveness of an infant is neither evaluated nor important to parents; all offspring supposedly seem beautiful to doting new parents. The purpose of the study we report here is to examine the validity of this widely held belief by assessing the attitudes and behaviors of mothers toward their firstborn infants as a function of infant attractiveness. There is a literature suggesting that mothers may not be as sanguine about infant appearance as conventional wisdom would have us believe. Rather, mothers may treat their infants differently on the basis of the infant's attractiveness. Experimental laboratory studies have shown that attractive compared

248 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and controlled manipulation of the baby schema in infant faces, it is found that baby schema activates the nucleus accumbens, a key structure of the mesocorticolimbic system mediating reward processing and appetitive motivation, in nulliparous women.
Abstract: Ethologist Konrad Lorenz defined the baby schema (“Kindchenschema”) as a set of infantile physical features, such as round face and big eyes, that is perceived as cute and motivates caretaking behavior in the human, with the evolutionary function of enhancing offspring survival. The neural basis of this fundamental altruistic instinct is not well understood. Prior studies reported a pattern of brain response to pictures of children, but did not dissociate the brain response to baby schema from the response to children. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and controlled manipulation of the baby schema in infant faces, we found that baby schema activates the nucleus accumbens, a key structure of the mesocorticolimbic system mediating reward processing and appetitive motivation, in nulliparous women. Our findings suggest that engagement of the mesocorticolimbic system is the neurophysiologic mechanism by which baby schema promotes human caregiving, regardless of kinship.

240 citations


"Perceiving infant faces" refers result in this paper

  • ...Consistent with other studies of women’s responses to infant facial cuteness [16,18-20], analyses of...

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Frequently Asked Questions (1)
Q1. What are the contributions in this paper?

Here the authors review some of this work, focusing on research investigating hormonal regulation of responses to infant facial cuteness and the role of kinship cues in perceptions of infant faces. Evolutionary studies of faces typically analyze adult targets Infant facial cues are important for adult-child interactions, however the authors discuss recent research on hormonal regulation of responses to infant facial cues The authors also discuss the role of kinship cues in perceptions of infant faces * Highlights ( for review ) These studies suggest that sex hormones have dissociable effects on the reward value of and perceptual sensitivity to infant facial cuteness. They also suggest that attitudes and behavior towards infants displaying cues of kinship are complex processes influenced by individual differences.