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Beauty in diversity.

Beauty in diversity

Recent studies indicated that infants and adults perceive the same white adult female faces as attractive (SN: 5/16/87, p.310), suggesting that perceptions of beauty develop in the first months of life and may derive in part from innate influences. Further investigations now demonstrate that babies and adults also share clear preferences for attractive faces of white adult males and females, black adult females and 3-month-old white girls and boys.

Even with little exposure to cultural standards of beauty, "infants treat attractive faces as distinctive regardless of the sex, age and race of the stimulus faces," write psychologist Judith H. Langlois of the University of Texas at Austin and her colleagues in the January DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY.

In one experiment, 60 healthy 6-month-olds from middleclass families viewed slides showing eight pairs of white male faces and eight pairs of white female faces. Each pair, displayed for 10 seconds, consisted of one attractive and one unattractive face, as previously judged by a group pf male and female college students. An experimenter viewed the young participants on a video monitor and recorded the direction and duration of each infant's gaze.

The 35 boys and 25 girls looked longer at both male and female faces judged as attractive, the researchers found.

Their second study of 6-month-olds involved 15 boys and 25 girls, predominantly white, who saw eight pairs of slides showing an attractive and an unattractive black female, as previously judged by both white and black college students. Again, the babies looked much longer at attractive faces.

Finally, 19 boys and 20 girls, all 6 months old and almost all of them white, viewed eight pairs of slides showing the faces of 3-month-old boys and girls previously rated as attractive or unattractive by college students. Attractive baby faces drew significantly longer looks, the psychologists report.

Further studies must explore whether infants perceive attractive faces as "best examples" of a face, the investigators maintain. Langlois and a co-worker recently reported that attractive faces may possess features that approximate the mathematical average of all faces in a particular population (SN: 5/12/90, p.298).
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Title Annotation:research on perceptions of beauty
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 2, 1991
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