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Human infants, just a few days of age, are known to prefer attractive human faces. We examined whether this preference is human-specific. Three- to 4-month-olds preferred attractive over unattractive domestic and wild cat tiger faces Experiments 1 and 3. The preference was not observed when the faces were inverted, suggesting that it did not arise from low-level image differences Experiments 2 and 3.

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In addition, the spontaneous preference for attractive tiger faces influenced performance in a recognition memory task involving attractive versus unattractive tiger face pairings Experiment 4. The findings suggest that infant preference for attractive faces reflects the activity of general processing mechanisms rather than a specific adaptation to mate choice. A human-specific attractiveness preference would make evolutionary sense because attractive faces advertise a of traits about an individual including fitness, and what is considered fitness may be different for different species Etcoff, ; Geary, In addition, a human-specific attractiveness preference could provide a bestiality avoidance mechanism.

Alternatively, it could be that there is a general preference for attractive mammalian faces. In other words, there is something common across all mammalian faces that makes an exemplar attractive and different from an unattractive exemplar. In the present study, we examined whether young infants, 3 to 4 months of age, would display an attractiveness effect for nonhuman animal faces i. Evidence on how infants respond to the attractiveness of nonhuman animal faces provides data that is relevant to the debate over whether the attractiveness preference reflects an adaptation for mate choice or is merely an offshoot of general information processing mechanisms.

In particular, if the attractiveness effect reflects an adaptation for mate choice, then one would expect it to occur only for conspecific faces. However, if the attractiveness effect is an outgrowth of general perceptual or cognitive mechanisms, then it would not be expected to be human-specific.

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In Experiment 1, a group of 3- to 4-month-old infants was presented with four s preference trials, each of which paired a different attractive cat face with a different unattractive cat face. The participants were 20 3- to 4-month-olds nine females with a mean age of None of the infants in this and the subsequent studies to be reported had a cat in their household or had prior visual experience with a cat according to parental report.

The stimuli consisted of photographic, colored images of 10 cat faces, five judged by adults as unattractive and five judged by adults as attractive. These stimuli were selected from an original pool of 32 cat face stimuli. Mean ratings for the unattractive and attractive faces were 2. Examples of the attractive and unattractive cat faces in grayscale are depicted in the top panel of Figure 1.

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Grayscale examples of the cat top panel and tiger bottom panel face stimuli used in the experiments. Attractive faces are on the left, unattractive faces are on the right. All infants were tested in a visual preference apparatus, modeled after the one described by Fagan The apparatus has a display panel onto which were attached two compartments to hold the poster board stimuli. The stimuli were illuminated by a fluorescent lamp that was shielded from the infant's view.

The center-to-center distance between compartments was There was a 0. A second peephole, 0. All infants were brought to the laboratory by a parent and seated in a reclining position on the parent's lap. There were two experimenters both of whom were naive to the hypotheses under investigation. The first experimenter positioned the apparatus so that the midline of the infant's head was aligned with the midline of the display panel.

The experimenter selected the appropriate stimuli and loaded them into the compartments of the display panel. The experimenter then closed the panel, thereby exposing the stimuli to the infant. The parent was unable to see the stimuli. During each trial, the first experimenter observed the infant through the peephole and recorded visual fixations to the left and right stimuli by means of two electronic stop watches, one of which was held in each hand.

Between trials, the first experimenter recorded infant looking times and changed the stimuli. The second experimenter did not participate other than to time the trials and al when a trial was to end. The two experimenters changed roles across infants.

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Inter-observer agreement, as determined by comparing looking times measured by the experimenter using the center peephole, and an additional naive observer measuring looking times offline from videotape records, was calculated for the preference trials of five randomly selected infants.

Average level of agreement for attractiveness preference scores was Each infant was presented with four s preference trials, each of which paired a different attractive cat face with a different unattractive cat face. The face pairings were randomly selected for each infant on each trial. The left-right positioning of the two was counterbalanced across infants on the first trial and reversed on each successive trial. To provide a manipulation check on the attractiveness ratings provided by the adults and the face pairings selected for presentation to the infants, 20 adults 13 female were presented with the same attractive and unattractive cat face pairings presented to the infants, and asked to select the member of the pair that was judged to be more attractive.

These adults differed from those who provided the initial ratings. Each adult was presented with one of the 20 sets of randomly selected pairings and their orderings presented to the infants.

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As was the case for the infant testing, the left-right positioning of the attractive and unattractive faces was counterbalanced across participants on the first trial and reversed on each successive trial. On each trial, adults were asked to select the member of the pair that was more attractive.

A preference score for the attractive cat faces was calculated for each infant by dividing the summed looking time to the attractive faces over all four trials by the summed looking time to both attractive and unattractive faces over the four trials.

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This score was then converted to a percentage and averaged across infants to yield a mean preference for the attractive cat faces. The mean preference for the attractive cat faces of The data indicate that young infants will display an attractiveness preference for faces from a species other than humans. To determine whether the attractiveness effect for cat faces is comparable to the attractiveness effect that has been observed for human faces, we examined how the attractiveness effect for cat faces is affected by stimulus inversion.

When infants view inverted human faces, they no longer show an attractiveness preference Slater et al. The inversion manipulation also allowed for an assessment of whether the attractiveness effect observed in Experiment 1 might be attributable to low-level image differences between the two sets of faces that are not necessarily diagnostic of attractiveness versus unattractiveness in cat faces in general. If the attractiveness effect is due to low-level image differences, then the preference for the attractive faces should be preserved with the inversion manipulation, given that such differences would not be affected by inversion.

Alternatively, if the attractiveness effect is based on perception of the cat faces in their upright orientation, then one would expect chance responding i. Experiment 1 was thus repeated, but in this instance with inverted cat faces. The participants were 20 3- to 4-month-olds 11 females with a mean age of The procedure was identical to that of Experiment 1except that the attractive and unattractive cat faces were inverted.

Inter-observer agreement, calculated for the attractiveness preferences of five randomly selected infants, was Like the attractiveness preference by infants for human faces, the attractiveness preference by infants for cat faces is orientation specific. The removal of the effect with inversion also indicates that the attractiveness preference is not simply the result of some low-level image difference between the two sets of faces e.

The data showing that young infants prefer attractive over unattractive cat faces supports the hypothesis that the attractiveness effect extends beyond human faces and may reflect a general preference for mammalian faces. However, such a conclusion may be premature because domestic cats are household animals that have been bred by humans as family pets.

Thus, domestic cats may reflect the breeding practices of humans who have chosen to raise cats that they find attractive. Hare, Brown, Williamson and Tomasello have made an analogous argument in the domain of social cognition in proposing that dogs have the ability to read human communicative als in ways that wolves do not because dogs have been bred to communicate with humans. The selective breeding would suggest that the attractiveness preference observed in Experiment 1 may represent a carry-over effect of human attractiveness.

Domestic cats may fit our human definition of attractiveness or health, and young infants may generalize from their representation of attractiveness of human faces to attractive and unattractive domestic cat faces. A more stringent test of whether attractiveness preferences in infants are governed by human-specific or general-mammalian mechanisms is to determine whether infants also prefer attractive over unattractive faces for an undomesticated animal species.

Therefore, in Experiment 3, we tested infant preferences for attractive and unattractive wild cat faces. Experiment 3 was effectively a replication of Experiment 1except that the stimuli were tiger faces. An inverted control condition was again included to examine the possibility that any observed preference for the attractive faces might reflect a spurious, low-level image difference. The participants were 40 3- to 4-month-olds 17 females with a mean age of The stimuli consisted of photographic, colored images of 10 tiger faces, five judged by adults as unattractive and five judged by adults as attractive.

These stimuli were selected from an original pool of 32 tiger face stimuli. Examples of the attractive and unattractive tiger faces in grayscale are depicted in the bottom panel of Figure 1. The procedures were identical to those of Experiments 1 and 2except that attractive and unattractive tiger faces were presented. Infants were randomly ased to the upright and inverted testing conditions. Inter-observer agreement, calculated for the attractiveness preferences of 10 randomly selected infants, was To provide a manipulation check on the selection of the upright attractive versus unattractive face pairings identical to that reported in the Method section of Experiment 120 adults 12 female were presented with the same upright attractive and unattractive tiger face pairings presented to the infants and asked to choose the member of the pair that was more attractive.

As was the case for the cat faces, these adults were a different sample from those who provided the initial ratings. The adults chose the more attractive member of the pair on 75 of the 80 trials or The mean preference for the upright attractive tiger faces was Similar to the observed for the domestic cat faces, the infants preferred only the upright attractive tiger faces.

The preference for attractive faces of nonhuman animal species is thus generalizable to undomesticated kinds. Experiment 4 was conducted to provide convergent evidence for the demonstration in Experiment 3 that 3- to 4-month-olds prefer upright attractive over unattractive tiger faces. Haith has argued that one criterion for judging the strength of an empirical phenomenon is to determine whether the phenomenon as demonstrated in one task influences performance in another task that is believed to tap the same phenomenon.

To this end, we asked whether the spontaneous preference for attractive over unattractive tiger faces affects performance in a recognition memory task involving a contrast between an attractive and unattractive tiger face. In Experiment 4, each infant was familiarized with a single attractive or unattractive tiger face for one s familiarization trial and then tested with the familiar face paired with a novel face from the contrasting category on two s preference trials.

The particular attractive and unattractive face pairings were randomly selected for each infant. In this procedure, recognition memory for the familiar stimulus is inferred if infants display a preference for the novel stimulus Fantz, If the spontaneous preference that infants display for attractive over unattractive tiger faces influences performance in the recognition memory task, then one would expect an asymmetrical pattern of performance Quinn, In particular, when an infant is familiarized with an attractive tiger face and tested with an attractive versus unattractive tiger face, then a spontaneous preference for the attractive tiger face should interfere with a novelty preference for the unattractive tiger face, with the consequence of a null novelty preference for the unattractive tiger face.

Conversely, when an infant is familiarized with an unattractive tiger face and tested with an unattractive versus attractive tiger face, then a spontaneous preference for the attractive tiger face should facilitate a novelty preference for the attractive tiger face, thereby giving rise to a robust novelty preference for the attractive tiger face.

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