Do babies know the difference between a beer gut and a six pack (and do they care)?

By Seriously Science | June 4, 2013 12:00 pm

Photo: flickr/LyndaSanchez

Are we born knowing the difference between toned and flabby bodies? Is your infant already judging your abs? In this study, the researchers tested whether babies of different ages show a preference for “attractive” versus “unattractive” male bodies. They found that while 3.5- and 6-month-olds did not show a preference, 9-month-olds actually preferred the unattractive bodies, perhaps because that’s what they’re more familiar with at home (take that, parents whose babies participated in the study!). Of course, this just begs the question – how would the results have changed if the researchers had used the Pitt-Jolie kids instead?

Nine-month-old infants prefer unattractive bodies over attractive bodies.

“Infant responses to adult-defined unattractive male body shapes versus attractive male body shapes were assessed using visual preference and habituation procedures. Looking behavior indicated that 9-month-olds have a preference for unattractive male body shapes over attractive ones; however, this preference is demonstrated only when head information is obscured. In contrast, 6- and 3.5-month-olds did not show a preference for unattractive or attractive bodies. The 6-month-olds discriminated between the two categories, whereas the 3.5-month-olds did not. Because unattractive body shapes are more common than attractive/athletic body shapes in our everyday environment, a preference for unattractive body shapes at 9 months of age suggests that preferences for particular human body shapes reflect level of exposure and familiarity rather than culturally defined stereotypes of body attractiveness.”

Bonus figure from the main text:

Fig. 1. Example stimuli presented to infants in Study 1 (left panel), Studies 2 and 4 (middle panel), and Study 3 (right panel).

Thanks to Thomas for the tip!

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Scientists watching babies watching robots.
NCBI ROFL: If a baby can do statistics, you have no excuse.
NCBI ROFL: The road to baby torture is a slippery slope.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is baby formed?
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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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