Exploring the morphological and emotional correlates of infant cuteness
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Ethologists have observed that "baby schema" or infant cuteness is an adaptive protective mechanism ensuring the young's survival. Past efforts to quantify cuteness have been restricted to line measurement techniques. We developed a novel data-driven approach to quantify infant cuteness into a single metric. Using the Psychomorph program, we delineated facial elements of 72 infant pictures using 206 facial points and identified the facial components that were significantly related to subjective cuteness perceptions of the faces. 108 nulliparous females rated the pictures on cuteness and emotional dimensions. We found that cuter infants have larger cephalic curvature compared to a smaller chin, a big smile, and round chubby features among others. We also investigated the relationship between cuteness and emotional responses. Our results show that a greater degree of cuteness elicits both increased positive emotional responses and decreased negative emotional responses. Cuter infants also elicited greater feelings of alertness, interest, and the need to respond. In fact, the participants' emotional responses were predictive of both data-driven scores and subjective perceptions of cuteness.
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