The role of facial orientation in newborn infants’ preference for attractive faces


Alan Slater School of Psychology, Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QG, UK.


Several previous experiments have found that newborn and young infants will spend more time looking at attractive faces when these are shown paired with faces judged by adults to be unattractive. Two experimental conditions are described whose aim was to find whether the ‘attractiveness effect’ is affected by the orientation of the facial stimuli. Pairs of attractive and less attractive faces (as judged by adults) were shown to newborn infants (mean age 2 days 20.5 hours), where each pair was presented both upright and inverted through 180°. In the former (upright) condition, but not the latter (inverted) condition, the infants looked longer at the attractive faces, and the difference in attractiveness preference between the conditions was statistically significant. These findings are clear evidence that infants’ early representation of faces contains information about faces that is orientation-specific. The results are discussed in terms of innate facial representations and rapid learning about faces in the hours from birth.