Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 124–130

Body proportions as information for age and cuteness: Animals in illustrated children’s books

  • John B. Pittenger


Growth systematically changes the body proportions of both humans and animals so that the ratio of head height to body height decreases with age. Prior studies have demonstrated that body proportions provide effective information for age perception. To test the proposal that illustrators incorporate this information into their drawings, measurements were made of the head and body heights of 100 pairs of animals appearing in children’s picture books. In 93 pairs, the animal intended to be perceived as older had a smaller head-to-body ratio than did the younger animal. Ratings collected for 25 of these pairs showed that both perceived age and cuteness are significantly correlated with body proportions. The magnitudes of the correlations were only modest, suggesting that other aspects of the drawings influenced perceived age and cuteness. In addition, observers reported that body proportions are only one of a variety of factors influencing age and cuteness perception. As has been found in other studies, perceived age and cuteness were negatively correlated.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John B. Pittenger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Arkansas at Little RockLittle Rock

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