Babies Prefer Beautiful Faces and Unattractive Bodies, Study
Past studies found that newborn babies prefer to look at attractive faces. When shown two photographs of faces, babies as young as a day old consistently spent more time looking at the more attractive face. However, a new study has revealed that babies' preference for physiques might not match their innate affinity for beautiful faces.
When British researchers from the University of Sheffield showed babies pictures of attractive bodies and unattractive bodies, babies consistently chose to fixate on less attractive, chubbier physiques over more attractive toned figures, particularly when looking at men.
"The men with attractive bodies were models, and the men with unattractive bodies were friends of the experimenters," researchers explained, according to the Daily Mail.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, involved three groups of children, aged three months, six months and nine months, and the babies' reactions were recorded with a video camera.
The pictures were shown in pairs for 10 seconds at a time. Each pair included one chubby body and one muscular body. Researchers noted that in some of the pictures the faces were covered.
Lead researcher Dr. Michelle Heron-Delaney and her team found that babies aged nine months showed a significant preference for the fatter bodies after recordings show that their eyes fixated significantly longer on the "less attractive" bodies.
However, while six-month-olds could discriminate between unattractive and attractive bodies, they displayed no particular preference for attractive or unattractive bodies. The study found that three-month-olds could not tell the difference between the two body shapes.
Surprisingly, researcher found that the nine-month-olds only showed a preference for chubbier bodies when the face was covered. When the face was not covered, nine-month-olds showed no preference between the two body shapes.
"The current study suggests that during infancy, preferences for particular human body shapes reflect level of exposure and resultant familiarity rather than culturally defined stereotypes of attractiveness," researchers wrote, according to the Daily Mail.
"Precisely when and how children develop preferences for adult-defined attractive bodies remains a question for future research," researchers added.
While researchers do not know why babies prefer chubbier bodies, they suggest that the prevalence of unattractive bodies in everyday life and the similarity of a fat male physique to the female body may be reasons why babies prefer fat over toned bodies.
"Because unattractive body shapes are more common than attractive/athletic body shapes in our everyday environment, a preference for unattractive body shapes at 9 months of age suggests that preferences for particular human body shapes reflect level of exposure and familiarity rather than culturally defined stereotypes of body attractiveness," researchers concluded.