Adult Reactions to Beauty in Babies
By: Beth McHugh 2008
We all think that our babies are just the most beautiful babies in the world. And, for the mental and physical wellbeing of our babies, that is a good thing. Yet the reality is that babies are relatively unattractive, with their overly-large heads, often misshapen by difficult births, their podgy pot bellies and their tendency to be chinless, bald and far removed from the classic understanding of beautiful. Part of the magic of being a parent is falling in love with your own child, and for that child, that is all that matters.
However, from an objective point of view, all babies are not of equal beauty. So how does that affect the way the world reacts to any given baby? Studies involving Anglo-American, Afro-American and Hispanic babies show that, independent of race, there is still an identifiable component we call “beauty” that is apparent even in young babies. We adults know “beauty” when we see it, and it is apparent in newborns as well as in adults of all races.
Interestingly, those babies judged to be the most beautiful were also perceived to be the most intelligent, healthy, outgoing, and friendly. This was judged by photos alone, there was no actual interaction with the children concerned. This study shows that what we already know about beautiful adults applies even to newborns and young infants. Beautiful babies get the most attention and are regarded as being superior to their less attractive peers. To continue this theme, unattractive babies were judged to be more troublesome, sickly and likely to cause their parents grief as they grew up.
But if you think that adults are biased, it appears babies are just as looks oriented as we parents. Young infants were shown to react more favorably and spend more time with attractive rather than unattractive adults. Given a choice of classically beautiful dolls versus dolls with plain faces, infants invariably chose the attractive ones. Although beauty is only skin deep, it does have a significant effect right through the lifespan.