the left: image of the supermodel Kate Moss, on the right: example of a
photographed 4-year-old girl that took part in our experiment regarding
the "babyfaceness hypothesis". The face of Kate Moss clearly shows characteristic
features of babyfaces, but at the same time it also includes mature female
features like high, prominent cheek bones and concave cheeks which are
accentuated evenly by using make-up. Cunningham (1986) claims that the
presence of both characteristic features makes faces very attractive.
Research on facial attractiveness has pointed out that the presence
of childlike facial features increases attractiveness. These are:
Large curved forehead
Facial elements (eyes, nose, mouth) located relatively low
Large, round eyes
Small, short nose
prototype for a "child woman" is Brigitte Bardot. The reason why childlike
women are perceived as being more attractive, is a biological one: Evolutionary
biologists argue that men have an reproductive advantage when preferring
young women as mating partners since they are likely to be healthy and
still having a long period of fertility ahead of them. Thus, he can have
many children with young women which means that he can successfully pass
on his genes to his descendants.
However, this idea is more than debatable. But why? Well, we mentioned
above that characteristics of mature females contribute to facial attractiveness,
too. These are, for instance, high and pronounced cheekbones and concave
cheeks (note: this is the opposite of the childlike, round cheeks!). The
biological reason for this is that these characteristics signal the man
to have found a sexually mature and fertile woman. Some researchers on
attractiveness (e.g. Karl Grammer) are convinced that childlike facial
characteristics just make female faces look younger, but not more attractive.
In order to examine the so-called "babyfaceness hypothesis", we produced
several variants of selected female faces. The variants all had different
levels of childlike facial proportions and were judged for attractiveness
by test subjects.
On the left: four children aged of 4 to 6.5 years; on
the right: derived scheme of childlike characteristics.
This is how we went about: we computed an "average child face" using
the four original images. Subsequently, we selected several attractive
woman faces. By using the morphing technique we gradually warped the facial
shape of the female faces into the shape of the scheme of childlike characteristics.
Only the proportions of the faces were manipulated, not the faces itself!
We produced six variations of each selected female face:
For each set of female faces, the test subjects were asked to indicate
which version they found most attractive. The results of this experiment
show clearly that childlike characteristics (large, round eyes, a large
curved forehead as well as small short nose and chin) can enhance attractiveness.
Only very few (9,5%) test subjects rated mature "original women" as being
most attractive. Most of the preferred female faces contained childlike
proportions of 10 - 50% (for details see report!). This means that even
the most attractive women become even more beautiful, if facial proportions
are made more childlike. And again: women who were rated as being most
attractive do not exist in reality!
50% adult woman
60% adult woman
70% adult woman
80% adult woman
90% adult woman
100% adult woman
In our online experiment you can
try everything out yourself and compare your selection to the preference
of the other test subjects.
babyfaceness online experiment
Last modified: 05-07-2002, webmaster