Facial Diversity and Infant Preferences

LANGLOIS ET AL.’S STUDY ON INFANTS AND ATTRACTIVENESS (1991)

STUDY ONE

Sample

The sample started with 110 six-month-old infants who were recruited from the subject pool at the University of Austin’s Children’s Research Lab. After 50 infants were removed, only 60 infants (35 boys and 25 girls) remained and made up the final sample. Removal was carried out for the following reasons:

  • 41 infants eliminated for fussing
  • 3 infants eliminated for computer/equipment failure
  • 3 infants eliminated for experimenter error
  • 2 infants eliminated because of mother
  • 1 infant eliminated for being premature

The remaining 60 infants were all healthy, full-term and middle class. The majority of them (53) were White, 5 were Hispanic, 1 was Black and 1 was Asian.

Procedure

Two faces (one attractive, one unattractive) were simultaneously projected onto a screen. The infant sat on their parent’s lap about 35cm from the screen. All parents wore occluded glasses to prevent them from viewing the faces – this made sure that parental preferences would not be communicated to the child. A light with a buzzing noise were used to catch the infant’s attention and to make them look at the screen just before each trial began. When the infant looked at the centre of the screen, the next pair of slides would be displayed. Each trial lasted for 10 seconds.

During intervals between trials, filtered light was used to keep the screen’s brightness consistent.

Stimuli (the slides) were presented in two sets, each containing 16 slides. Each set was divided into eight blocks, each containing two slides. After every eight blocks, infants had a 5-10 minute break to avoid tiredness. All slides were paired according to sex so infants only saw pairs of females or pairs of males.

To control bias related to the side of a slide, each block consisted of two consecutive 10-second trials in which a pair was shown with one face on the left and one face on the right, but they were reversed on for the second trial (right-side face was reversed to be on the left side, and vice versa).

There were two presentation conditions:

  1. Alternating (alternating pairs of males and females)
  2. Grouped (female slides together and male slides together)

The following factors were randomised:

  • Order of the presentation of sets
  • Order of a slide pair’s presentation
  • Order of slide pairing

Trial length, slight advancement and data recording were controlled by a lab computer.

An experimenter observed infants’ visual fixations (where they looked on the screen) on a video monitor that was connected to a video camera under the projection screen. Direction and duration of looks were recorded on the keyboard of a lab computer.

The experimenter watched the infant on the video screen, which made sure the experimenter could not see the displayed slides. Therefore, they were blind to the attractiveness level of the observed slides.

To determine if the infants’ preferences for faces was influenced by the attractiveness of their mothers, photographs of all mothers were taken and analysed by 72 undergraduates (29 men and 43 women) on a five-point Likert scale.

Results

The results showed the following:

  • Infants looked longer at attractive faces, regardless of the gender of the faces.
  • The presentation condition was not significant.
  • Boys looked at male faces longer than female faces.
  • Girls looked longer at female faces too, but this difference was not that significant.
  • Infant looking time decreased as the trials/blocks went on.
  • No significant relationship was found between mother attractiveness and attractiveness of the face stimulus.

STUDY TWO

Sample

The sample started with 43 six-month-old infants from the same Children’s Research Lab.

  • 2 infants eliminated for fussing
  • 1 infant eliminated because of equipment failure

The remaining 40 infants (15 boys and 25 girls) made up the final sample. They were all healthy and full-term. The majority (36) of infants were White while 2 were Black and 2 were Hispanic.

Procedure

The second study used the faces of 16 adult Black women; eight had previously been rated as attractive while the other eight had been rated as unattractive. All faces had neutral expressions and masked and clothing cues.

The same visual preference technique of Study 1 was used again with two modifications:

  1. No presentation condition
  2. Reduction in number of trials/blocks to lessen infant fatigue

Each infant saw four of the eight attractive slides paired with four of the eight unattractive slides. They were presented in four blocks. Each pair was presented twice (the second presentation was in reverse left-right form). Slide pairing was random.

As in Study 1, mothers’ photographs were taken to assess whether or not mother attractiveness influenced infant preference. The photos were rated on attractiveness by 49 undergraduates (27 men and 22 women) on a five-point Likert scale.

Results

The results showed the following:

  • Infants looked longer at attractive Black women’s faces than unattractive faces.
  • Infants looked for longer during the first two trials/blocks.
  • No significant relationship was found between mother attractiveness and attractiveness of the face stimulus.

STUDY THREE

Sample

The sample started with 52 six-month-old infants from the same Lab.

  • 11 infants eliminated for fussing
  • 2 infants eliminated for not being tested on time

The remaining 39 infants (19 boys and 20 girls) were healthy, full-term and middle class. The majority (37) were White while 2 were Hispanic.

Procedure

The third study used slides of the faces of 16 three-month-old male and female infants, who had been rated for attractiveness by at least 40 undergraduate students on a five-point Likert scale.

Four male and four female attractive faces were used as the stimuli alongside four male and four female unattractive faces. All faces had neutral expressions with masked clothing cues.

The visual preference technique used in Study 1 and Study 2 was used again in this study. However, maternal attractiveness was not checked in this study because it was found to be insignificant in both of the previous studies.

Results

The results showed the following:

  • Infants looked longer at attractive baby faces than they did at unattractive ones.
  • Infants looked for longer during the first two trials/blocks.
  • The sex of the infant was insignificant.

Type of research method

Laboratory experiment.

Type of data collected

Quantitative data.

Reference: Langlois, J. H., Ritter, J. M., Roggman, L. A. and Vaughn, L. S. (1991). Facial Diversity and Infant Preferences for Attractive Faces. Developmental Psychology.