Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 89–109 | Cite as

Do Babyfaced Adults Receive More Help? The (Cross-Cultural) Case of the Lost Resume

  • Caroline F. KeatingEmail author
  • David W. Randall
  • Timothy Kendrick
  • Katharine A. Gutshall


The hypothesis that babyish-looking adult faces would elicit help was tested in a field experiment using the “lost letter” technique. Digitized images of African-American and European-American adult male and female faces were made to look babyish (neotenous) by substituting enlarged eyes and lips for normal ones. Eyes and lips were reduced in size to make faces look mature. As expected, neotenous features made adults appear submissive, weak, naive, feminine, compassionate, and honest, but not more or less attractive, relative to mature features. Neotenous or mature faces were printed on (fictional) resumes, attached to stamped, addressed envelopes, and “lost” in the US (n = 408) and Kenya (n = 176). “Helping” was indexed by whether resumes were posted (returned) or not. Most results supported predictions; across nations, resumes depicting neotenous, white and black female faces and neotenous, white male faces were returned more often than were resumes displaying the mature versions of these faces. Returns for neotenous and mature black male faces, however, were not significantly different. Overall, support was found for the hypothesis that neotenous, submissive-looking facial characteristics cue social approach and elicit help while mature, dominant-looking facial traits cue avoidance.

cross-cultural evolution faces helping neoteny 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline F. Keating
    • 1
    Email author
  • David W. Randall
    • 2
  • Timothy Kendrick
    • 2
  • Katharine A. Gutshall
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyColgate UniversityHamilton
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyColgate UniversityHamilton

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