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A study on the development of perception in humans and animals

This article was submitted to Developmental Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received 2014 Mar 13; Accepted 2014 Apr 19. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

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Perception

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The baby schema concept was originally proposed as a set of infantile traits with high appeal for humans, subsequently shown to elicit caretaking behavior and to affect cuteness perception and attentional processes. However, it is unclear whether the response to the baby schema may be extended to the human-animal bond context. Moreover, questions remain as to whether the cute response is constant and persistent or whether it changes with development.

Baby schema in human and animal faces induces cuteness perception and gaze allocation in children

In the present study we parametrically manipulated the baby schema in images of humans, dogs, and cats. We analyzed responses of 3—6 year-old children, using both explicit i. For comparative purposes, cuteness ratings were also obtained in a sample of adults. Overall our results show that the response to an infantile facial configuration emerges early during development. In children, the baby schema affects both cuteness perception and gaze allocation to infantile stimuli and to specific facial features, an effect not simply limited to human faces.

In line with previous research, results confirm human positive appraisal toward animals and inform both educational and therapeutic interventions involving pets, helping to minimize risk factors e. A general proneness toward animals is observed in children from a very early stage of development DeLoache et al.

Children are more likely to be attentive and to have increased motivational levels in the presence of animals and this has led to the inclusion of different animal species both in educational and therapeutic interventions aimed at promoting healthy development in children Cirulli et al.

Even in subjects with a deficit in the social domain i. Despite recent advances in child psychology research on human—animal interactions e. Most common pet species i.

  1. Most common pet species i. This procedure allowed us to dissociate the response to the baby schema high vs.
  2. Whatever its exact mechanism, the phenomenon of masking manifestly demonstrates that percepts do not emerge instantaneously and full-blown at the moment of sensory stimulation.
  3. Look at Figure 1 and continue looking until you see something more than a pattern of black, gray, and white patches. It is often said, for example, that sensations are simple and that percepts are complex.
  4. Even when dampened by physical restraint, some residual movement will be left, attributable largely to high-frequency tremors nystagmus of the eyeballs. In some instances the temporal development of percepts is relatively long on the order of seconds , and in some it is quite brief on the order of thousandths of a second.

This process has been referred to as neoteny and it thought to be due to generations of conscious or unconscious selective breeding for non-aggressive behavior toward man i.

It has been hypothesized that the presence of lifelong youthful traits might form the basis of our attraction to animals, especially pets Archer, 1997. The term baby schema Kindchenschema, Lorenz, 1943 refers to a set of facial features i. In classical ethology this specific configuration of features has been described as triggering an innate releasing mechanism for caregiving and affective orientation toward infants Lorenz, 1943 and more recently, its role in promoting human nurturing behavior was demonstrated at the neurophysiologic level using neuroimaging Glocker et al.

Increased attention and willingness to care, positive affect and protective behavior, as well as decreased likelihood of aggression toward the infant, characterize the so-called baby schema response or cute response Lorenz, 1943 ; Alley, 1983 ; Brosch et al.

Previous research has demonstrated the generalization of this response to real animals Archer and Monton, 2011 ; Little, 2012representations of animals such as cartoon characters e. Consistent with these observations, the findings of a recent study by Golle et al.

The idea of the extension of the baby schema response to the human-animal bond context has gained weight also in the light of some evidence that the bond between pets and their owners shares striking similarities to the relationship between human parents and their children, e.

The analysis of the emergence of a cute response, during development, has so far produced results not easily comparable Fullard and Reiling, 1976 ; Maestripieri and Pelka, 2002 ; Sanefuji et al.

Cuteness perception and preference for infantile features in animals as well as the pseudo-nurturing behavior toward animal-like toys seem to emerge in children between 3 and 6 years Morris et al.

There are — nonetheless — a range of methodological limitations in the previous findings. First, most of the prior studies have employed drastically simplified stimuli line drawings and schematic faces or stimuli not controlled for the individual facial differences unrelated to baby schema e.

Hence the interpretation of outcomes is limited by the impossibility to dissociate the response to a specific stimulus humans vs. Only recently, Glocker et al.

  1. The effect of facial features on cuteness perception may thus be modulated by motivations, preferences and prior experience, e. A top of the head , B bottom of the chin , C and D outer edges of the face along the x-axis , E1 and E2 inner corners of the eyes , F1 and F2 outer corners of the eyes , O nose base at the crossing of the x- and y-axis , H below the tip of the nose , I and J widest point on nose wing , K and L outer edge of the mouth.
  2. Received 2014 Mar 13; Accepted 2014 Apr 19. In general, adults tend to look longer at infant than at adult faces and at cuter than at less cute infants Hildebrandt and Fitzgerald, 1978 ; Power et al.
  3. There are — nonetheless — a range of methodological limitations in the previous findings.
  4. After removal of their cataracts, such newly sighted people are found to be normally sensitive to changes in intensity of illumination and to colour.

This was achieved by developing an effective procedure to create stimuli with objectively quantified and parametrically manipulated baby schema content, that retained all the characteristic of the individual portrait Glocker et al. Second, when asked for overt preferences, participants might only report socially desirable and appropriate responses, as evidenced in traditional self-report measures e. In fact, although this aspect is still not extensively explored, the baby schema response seems to be anticipated by an attentional bias toward infantile stimuli.

Previous studies have shown a visual prioritization dotprobe task, Brosch et al.

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In general, adults tend to look longer at infant than at adult faces and at cuter than at less cute infants Hildebrandt and Fitzgerald, 1978 ; Power et al. However, further studies are needed to determine whether this attentional bias is constant and persistent or whether it changes during development.

In addition, questions remain as to whether this response may be detected when viewing images of non-human faces. We followed Glocker et al. This procedure allowed us to dissociate the response to the baby schema high vs. In Experiment 1 we aimed at exploring a possible early emergence of the attentional bias toward the baby schema Hildebrandt and Fitzgerald, 1978 ; Power et al.

We aimed at assessing the effect of the baby schema on cuteness perception Glocker et al. Since eye movements can be modulated by cognitive demands and characteristics of the observed scenes Henderson, 2003 ; Isaacowitz, 2006we predicted gaze patterns gaze distribution across key internal facial features, i.

In fact, although most of the previous research has described the baby schema response as driven by baby-like perceptual factors i. The effect of facial features on cuteness perception may thus be modulated by motivations, preferences and prior experience, e. Following Glocker et al.

Sensing and perceiving

Baby schema content in each image was manipulated using the range of baby schema values mean and standard deviation, SD in a sample of unmanipulated images as a guide for the manipulation procedure which consisted in reducing or enlarging facial parameters above or below the mean; with the range of manipulation depending on SD to produce either high or low infantile features Glocker et al.

Stimulus creation procedure Pictures were digitized at 72 dpi and were two-dimensionally rotated and scaled to a head length of 600 pixels. A coordinate system was superimposed on the faces so that the x-axis connected the inner corner of the eyes and the y-axis traversed the midline of the nose.

A top of the headB bottom of the chinC and D outer edges of the face along the x-axisE1 and E2 inner corners of the eyesF1 and F2 outer corners of the eyesO nose base at the crossing of the x- and y-axisH below the tip of the noseI and J widest point on nose wingK and L outer edge of the mouth.