Publicado originalmente en FaceBook, 2008.

El siguiente es un extracto de un artículo en prensa de Trends in Cognitive Sciences (Todorov et al, in press):

“The science of ‘cute’ began in the middle of the twentieth century
when Konrad Lorenz [45] posited that infantile features automatically
evoke a nurturing response in adult perceivers. The efficacy of
traits such as large eyes, large head and small jaw is so prepotent,
he argued, that non-human animals possessing them enjoy
increased human affection. That is, we are so automatically moved
to a nurturing state by these physical features that we respond to
them even when displayed by non-human animals. Stephen Jay
Gould [46] famously summarized this idea in an essay in which he
described the 50-year morphological evolution of Mickey Mouse
from adult-faced troublemaker to baby-faced icon. Knowingly or
otherwise, Disney animators have increasingly exploited Lorenz’s
idea by, among other changes, increasing the size of Mickey’s eyes
and head.

More recently, psychologists have applied this notion to the social
consequences for adults who retain juvenile facial features. The
majority of this work has been done by Leslie Zebrowitz and her
colleagues [1,6], who have demonstrated that ‘baby faced’ adults
are assumed to be warmer, more honest, more naı¨ve and weaker
than their mature-faced peers. Moreover, they have shown that
these impressions can have potentially profound consequences. For
instance, both criminal and civil judicial verdicts can be predicted by
whether or not the defendant is baby faced [47], despite mixed
evidence regarding how well these trait impressions predict the
actual behavior of an individual (Box 1).

Zebrowitz and her colleagues [29,48] have argued that the
automatic response to facial features in babies is overgeneralized
to adults who share them, resulting in appearance driven trait
impressions. Consistent with this hypothesis, they have shown that
faces that are ascribed child-like traits are more likely to be confused
with baby faces by a neural network model trained to distinguish
baby faces from adult faces [48]. The overgeneralization hypothesis
posits that these appearance-driven impressions are adaptive,
regardless of validity, to the extent that the cost of inaccurately
inferring child-like traits from baby-faced adults is less than the cost
of responding inappropriately to the needs of infants”.

TODOROV, A., SAID, C., ENGEL, A. & N. OOSTERHOF (in press) Understanding evaluation of faces on
social dimensions. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.