Infant attention to male faces



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Two experiments investigated how the cues of attractiveness, masculinity, and averageness contribute independently or jointly to elicit 6- and 12-month-old infants' attention toward male faces. In Experiment 1, infant interest in high vs. low attractive male faces depended on the masculinity of the face pair (i.e., infants looked longer at high relative to low attractive, low masculine male faces and looked longer at low relative to high attractive, medium masculine male faces), and infant interest in high vs. low masculine male faces depended on the infant's age (i.e., 12-month-olds, but not 6-month-olds, looked longer at low relative to high masculine male faces). In Experiment 2, infants looked longer at low relative to high masculine male faces only when the faces within the pair differed in both masculinity and attractiveness, and female infants looked longer at a low masculine averaged male face than low attractive, high masculine male faces. Although the combined pattern of results suggested that infant interest might be directed more toward low than high masculine male faces, particularly high attractive, low masculine male faces, the face pairings within which the longer looking occurred differed across the two studies. To ensure that these somewhat different results were not due to infants' inability to discriminate among the faces used in the studies, a third study demonstrated that infants at both ages could clearly differentiate among the faces used in the first two studies. The similarity of low masculine male faces to female faces is discussed as a possible reason for infant interest in these types of faces, and methodological differences between the first two studies are discussed as possibly accounting for the slightly different pattern of results. The results have implications for the development of attractiveness and masculinity stereotypes for male faces, and how well findings from the infant face perception literature generalize from female to male faces.