, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 437-455

The influence of infant facial cues on adoption preferences

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Trivers’s theory of parental investment suggests that adults should decide whether or not to invest in a given infant using a cost-benefit analysis. To make the best investment decision, adults should seek as much relevant information as possible. Infant facial cues may serve to provide information and evoke feelings of parental care in adults. Four specific infant facial cues were investigated: resemblance (as a proxy for kinship), health, happiness, and cuteness. It was predicted that these cues would influence feelings of parental care for both sexes, but that resemblance would be more important for men than women because of the importance of paternity uncertainty in the ancestral environment. Seventy-six men and 76 women participated in a hypothetical adoption task in which they made judgments of infant faces. Average zero-order, partial, and component score correlations all revealed that men placed primary emphasis on cues of resemblance, while women placed primary emphasis on cues of health and cuteness (cues of infant quality). The correlations also showed that men placed a significantly greater emphasis on cues of resemblance than did women.

This research was supported by a Queen’s University Graduate Award (first author) and a Senior Research Fellowship from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation (second author).
Anthony Volk is a Ph.D. candidate at Queen’s University, studying parental investment.
Vernon L. Quinsey is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Queen’s University. His research focuses on forensic and evolutionary psychology.
An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12110-003-1018-9.