Previous studies have taught us that round faces and high foreheads are the main ingredients in the recipe for cute babies. But this just brings up bigger and more important questions. What makes cute puppies cute? If you look at so many cute puppies that you become bored of them, will you still be able to appreciate cute babies? Thank goodness these researchers did the experiments to find out!
Sweet puppies and cute babies: perceptual adaptation to babyfacedness transfers across species. "Infant faces are very salient stimuli. The Kindchenschema describes specific features that characterize a cute infant face. In this study we used a visual adaptation paradigm to investigate the universality of the perceptual properties of the Kindchenschema. In Experiment 1, twenty-four participants adapted to cute and less cute human infant faces and in Experiment 2, twenty-four new participants adapted to cute and less cute faces of puppy dogs. In both experiments the task was to assess the cuteness of subsequently presented human infant faces. The results revealed cuteness after-effects for human infant faces in both adaptation conditions, suggesting a common mechanism coding cuteness in human and non-human faces. This study provides experimental evidence for the universality of the well-described concept of the Kindchenschema."
Bonus quote from the full text:
"In the pre-adaptation phase all test stimuli were randomly presented and the task was to rate the cuteness of these faces on a QWERTZ computer keyboard using the keys “S”, “D”, “V”, “N”, “K” and “L” on which we added stickers that were marked with the values 1 to 6 (reflecting the cuteness levels, 1 = uncute, 6 = cute). The participants were asked to use the index finger, middle finger and ring finger of each hand to enable spontaneous and fast reaction."
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