Friday, February 20, 2009

How cute is that baby's face - hormones regulate the answer.

Sprengelmeyer et al. make some interesting observations suggesting that female reproductive hormones increase sensitivity to variations in the cuteness of baby faces. Their abstract:
We used computer image manipulation to develop a test of perception of subtle gradations in cuteness between infant faces. We found that young women (19–26 years old) were more sensitive to differences in infant cuteness than were men (19–26 and 53–60 years old). Women aged 45 to 51 years performed at the level of the young women, whereas cuteness sensitivity in women aged 53 to 60 years was not different from that of men (19–26 and 53–60 years old). Because average age at menopause is 51 years in Britain, these findings suggest the possible involvement of reproductive hormones in cuteness sensitivity. Therefore, we compared cuteness discrimination in pre- and postmenopausal women matched for age and in women taking and not taking oral contraceptives (progestogen and estrogen). Premenopausal women and young women taking oral contraceptives (which raise hormone levels artificially) were more sensitive to variations of cuteness than their respective comparison groups. We suggest that cuteness sensitivity is modulated by female reproductive hormones.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Have you accounted for the social construction of what constitutes "cute"? For example, is cuteness a judgment of particular features deemed attractive as a result of specific social conditioning towards those features?

    I enjoyed reading your lecture on mirror neurons. I posted a blog entry today on a possible connection between Aristotle and Mirror Neurons. Let me know what you think.