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Psychol Sci. 2009 Feb;20(2):149-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02272.x. Epub 2009 Jan 17.

The cutest little baby face: a hormonal link to sensitivity to cuteness in infant faces.

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1
School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland. rhs3@st-and.ac.uk

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.

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