ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (7): 811-822.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00811

• Reports of Empirical Studies •     Next Articles

The attention bias effect of infant face: The mechanism of cuteness and familiarity

LEI Yi1,2,3(), XIA Qi2,4, MO Zhifeng2,5, LI Hong2,3   

  1. 1. Institute for Brain and Psychological Sciences, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610066, China
    2. School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China
    3. Shenzhen Institute of Neuroscience, Shenzhen 518060, China
    4. Shenzhen Guangming District Second Middle School, Shenzhen 518107, China
    5. School of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin 541001, China
  • Received:2018-01-21 Published:2020-07-25 Online:2020-05-25
  • Contact: LEI Yi
  • Supported by:
    This work was supported by Methods of diagnosis and treatment of autism(2018b030335001);National Natural Science Foundation of China(31671150);National Natural Science Foundation of China(31871130);Innovation team construction project of universities in Guangdong Province(2015 kcxtd009);Provincial basic research and applied research major project of Guangdong Province(2016kzdxm009);Shenzhen basic research layout project(jcyj20150729104 249783);Shenzhen peacock project(kqtd2015033016104926);Project of Shenzhen Hong Kong Institute of brain science innovation(2019shibs0003)


Previous studies found attention bias towards an infant’s face among parents and non-parents. Ethologist Konrad Lorenz proposed the concept of “baby schema,” indicating that the rapid reaction towards an infant’s information is an innate releasing mechanism. The follow-up research found that the attention bias effect was affected by individual differences, such as gender, characteristics, hormones, etc. However, little is known about an infant’s facial features and the impact of those features on the attention bias.
This study investigates the influence of cuteness and familiarity on the attention bias effect towards an infant’s face. A 2 (cuteness:high cuteness, low cuteness) × 2 (familiarity: high familiarity, low familiarity) within subject design was used in this study. Before the formal experiment, according to 31 participants’ ratings of cuteness after pictures of infants’ face with high and low cuteness were shown. The familiarity of faces was manipulated by infant face learning. There were 35 participants in our formal experiment and each participant completed 3 parts: infant facial images learning and recognition task, dot probe task, and rating task. This study used eye-movement tracking and subjective ratings to investigate the influence of cuteness and familiarity of infant’s faces on the preference/attention bias effect towards an infant’s face by comparing the attention bias indexes under four conditions in the dot probe task.
The dot-probe task indicated that compared to adult’s faces, participants reacted more quickly when the target was presented at the same location with an infant’s face. The reaction time bias under the high-cuteness infant face condition was stronger than that under the low-cuteness infant face condition. The eye-movement tracking results showed that participants preferred looking at the high-cuteness infant faces, indicating first fixation duration bias and the total gaze duration bias. However, there was no significant difference in the direction of eye movement and first fixation latency bias. These results implied an attention maintenance pattern for high-cuteness infant faces. Furthermore, this pattern only existed under the low-familiarity condition. The attention bias effect between high- and low-cuteness infant faces was not significantly different under the high-familiarity condition. For the rating of cuteness, infant faces with high-familiarity were rated as cuter than the low-familiarity infant faces, regardless of their cuteness.
In conclusion, our experiment identified that the cuteness of infants’ face influences the effect of attention bias towards an infant’s face under the low-familiarity condition. Regarding the preferences, there may be a dissociative situation between subjective rating and gazing behavior.

Key words: infant face, attention bias, cuteness, familiarity