Impressions of babyfaced individuals across life span

This page is a summary of a study published by The American Psychological Association. 

Click on the link to access the study: 

 

We form first impressions from faces despite warnings not to do so. 

 

MAIN IDEA

 

“Babyfaced” adults are perceived as physically weak, naïve, submissive, honest, kind, and warm. We are attuned to differences in faces that matter in our social environments. Age is one such difference that carries a lot of information about the mental and physical capabilities of an individual.

THE EXPERIMENT

Three hundred and forty two students who were enrolled in an introductory psychology class in the United State of America participated for partial course credit. 

Approximately equal numbers of men and women were randomly assigned to rate targets representing one of six age group:

There are babyfaced babies, babyfaced children, babyfaced adolescents, babyfaced young adults, and babyfaced older adults of both sexes. More specifically,  Infant (N = 32), pre schoolers (N=48), fifth graders (N=48), eighth graders (N = 48), young adults( N=118), and older adults(N=48). Subjects assigned to the infant group rated both male and female targets, whereas subjects assigned to the other age groups rated either male or female targets. 

For each group of targets, subjects viewed one of two orders of faces and completed ratings in one of two orders. 

 

THE RESULTS

Perceivers not only agreed as to who was babyfaced, but they also shared common expectations concerning the traits possessed by these targets: The babyface overgeneralization effect held true for male and female targets across the life span.

 

With the linear effects of attractiveness and smiling held constant, more babyfaced male and female targets from infancy to older adulthood were perceived as less socially autonomous and more naive than their more mature faced peers. 

 

Specifically, the more babyfaced targets were perceived as more dependent, more submissive, more naive and easily fooled, less likely to know right from wrong, and less able to follow complicated instructions. More babyfaced individuals were also perceived as physically weaker, albeit only at a marginal level of significance for infants and older adults.

 

Babyfaced male and female targets not only were perceived as more childlike in the domains of social, intellectual, and physical power, but they were also perceived as warmer and more honest. Specifically, they were rated as more affectionate and desirous of being hugged, kinder, warmer, more straight- forward, and more honest than their mature faced peers, although the last effect cannot be generalized to infants because their perceived honesty was not assessed. Also, it should be noted that the effects of a babyface and attractiveness on impressions of infants' warmth were dependant of each other. 

 

Additional research also indicates that impressions of babyfaced individuals generalize across perceiver's race and age: it is a cross cultural stereotype. (McArthur & Berry, 1987; Montepare & Zebrowitz-McArthur, 1989). 

 

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