If you're always wondering why your baby stares at you, know that he thinks you are absolutely delightful to look at.
Not soon after they are born, babies start trying to discover what’s around them and make sense of the big new world they have just become a part of. And as a parent, you might be eager to know what goes through the minds of these tiny humans as they gaze at you or the world around them. When you see that your little one is gazing at you for long, it is probably because your baby finds you attractive. When researchers conducted a study with newborn babies, their findings tried to decode a baby’s preferences and understand the mini-humans better.
It could be that an individual’s idea of beauty and attractiveness is not shaped by experiences or developing opinions. The study shows that babies are already wired to connect better with some things than others or some people over others. It has been observed that babies tend to fixate on high contrast images or they prefer curvy biological shapes than others. Babies are not blank slates; they already have a pre-installed genetic makeup and their own developments that began while inside their mother’s womb. So when it comes to faces as well, babies might just be drawn more to attractive faces and gaze more at people who suit their preference.
The study that observed the preference of newborn infants for attractive faces found that they were able to process a certain level of facial differences and tend to prefer attractive faces. When babies, even when they were just a day old, were presented with two photographs, both similar in brightness and contrast but portraying people measured differently on the attractiveness scale, babies fixated on the faces that were rated as more attractive. Therefore, not everything in a baby’s life is learned through knowledge and experiences. Babies have in-built mechanisms to perceive what’s around them and understand facial differences to some extent.
“Attractiveness is not simply in the eye of the beholder. It's in the eye of the infant right from the moment of birth, and possibly before birth," said Dr. Alan Slater from School of Psychology, University of Exeter, who was the co-author of the study. As a baby starts exploring the world around him, things may be blurry in the beginning. For instance, the face of his mother might also appear blurry in the beginning for a newborn, however, a few hours after their birth they are somewhat able to tell the face of their mother apart from the face of a stranger’s, despite their vision not being fully developed yet.
Even when the babies are shown two different faces that are similar for all other aspects except attractiveness, they still have some way of differentiating between them. And the infants spent about 80 percent of the time gazing at the face that was rated more attractive. "It helps them to recognize familiar faces - particularly that of the mother - and it helps them in learning about the social world," said Dr. Slater. "The mother's face at first seems blurred to the newborn, but it can discriminate the mother's face from that of female strangers as little as 15 hours from birth."
As children grow up, studies have also noticed how they are more likely to go for information that’s provided by someone attractive. The first physical appearance tends to be what children look for when they are seeking help from a stranger. Why this is important is because children heavily rely on information that’s handed down to them by others for a significant number of tasks they do during the day. And when they have nobody else to turn to but a stranger during certain special circumstances, they are likely to seek what they will consider as reliable information from somebody who is attractive.
“Our study wanted to examine whether children would trust an attractive stranger over an unattractive stranger,” said Dr. Igor Bascandziev, a researcher from Harvard University. The study found that both young boys and girls were likely to choose an attractive woman over an unattractive woman when they were asked who would know the answer to the problem at hand.
An argument on what is really attractive and what is not attractive can go on without a valid conclusion. After all, the faces in the photographs that were shown to the infants were rated based on what adults found to be attractive. But the next time you find that your little bundle of joy is gazing continuously at you, it could be because your son or daughter finds you absolutely gorgeous.