Facial Diversity and Infant Preferences for Attractive Faces - Langlois, J.H., Ritter, J.M., Roggman, L.A. and Vaughn, L.S. (1991)


  • To replicate the findings of the previous study.
  • To test the nature versus nurture debate on infant development. Whether Infants would gaze longer at attractive or unattractive faces.
  • Participants

    1st Experiment: 56 undergraduate students (28 men and 28 women) recruited from introductory psychology classes at UT
    2nd Experiment: 60 healthy full term infants, 35 boys and 25 girls. Volunteers from the University of Texas at Austin all within 3 weeks of their 6 month birthday
    Infants were from the UT nursery. All infants were from mid-upper social class; nearly all white; from the same nursery.

  • There were 60 babies in the study; there was nearly a 35-25 split between male and female.
  • Infants were an average age of 6 months and 6 days. All infants were tested within 3 weeks of their 6 month birthday.
  • Babies were excluded from the study if they were not healthy, and full-term babies. One child was excluded from the study because she was born premature; a few others were excluded because they were fussy.
  • Research Method

    The research method used in this study was a Lab experiment.


  • Babies were seated on their mother's lap; mother was blindfolded.
  • Babies were approximately 35 cm from the screen.
  • Independent observers measured interest by where baby gazed. Observers could not see the pictures that appeared on screen.
  • Babies attention was brought to the screen by a light and a buzzing sound; then two faces in color appeared side by side; one attractive, one non-attractive.
  • Each trial lasted 10 seconds.
  • The faces were presented in a right-left position, then a left-right position to prevent infant side preference.
  • Slides were always paired within sex; so a baby was never going to look at a male and a female on the same slide.
  • The babies rested between trials; after 8 trials they were given a 5-10 minute break to ensure they were not becoming fatigued.

  • Two independent observers watched the babies by a tape so they didn’t know what face the baby was starring at.


  • Babies gazed at attractive faces longer than unattractive faces.
  • Mother's attractiveness did not matter.

  • Weaknesses

    Unnatural activity for baby.

    Ecological Validity

  • Low; lab study
  • Babies can't communicate their exact feelings about what they see; although this is why they used the gazing method.
  • Explanations

  • Study supports nature side of debate.
  • Langlois said that the results of the study allow us to infer that there is a prototypical face hardwired into our psyche before we have a chance to en culture ourselves into society.

  • Strengths

  • high level of control.
  • Large sample with a good gender split.
  • Kept on parent's lap so the baby would stay comfortable.
  • Picky about the participant group; eliminated fussy, and or premature babies.

  • Ethics

    Parents gave permission

    Langlois, J.H., Ritter, J.M., Roggman, L.A. and Vaughn, L.S. (1991)

    View the study