No offense, newborns!
If you find newborns ugly, you’re not alone. Wrinkly, red, and oftentimes furry, babies aren’t much to look at right off the bat. In fact, the results of a recent survey published in Evolution and Human Behavior found that we don’t find babies cute until three, or even six months of age. From there, babies remain at peak cuteness until around age four-and-a-half. Understandable right? That’s when they’re at their most chubby and dimpled.
“We noticed adults rated the newborns as the least attractive and the six-month-olds had the highest ratings across all of the facial cues,” study coauthor, Prarthana Franklin, said in a statement. “That was interesting because usually we think that the younger children are, the cuter they are, and so more people prefer younger children.”
In the study, researchers showed photos of 18 different babies—newborns, three-month-olds, and six-month-olds— to 142 adults. Franklin and her team then asked how willing they would be to adopt the kids based on how happy, healthy and cute they appeared. The adults found six-month-olds most favorable, followed by three-month-olds and last but not least, newborns.
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But why is it what we don’t find newborns cute? Wouldn’t it make the most sense, evolutionarily speaking, for adults to find infants most adorable when they’re at their most vulnerable?
The researchers suspect that, since babies have a higher chance of survival once they hit the six-month mark, that bonding is delayed in case newborns do not survive. And the reason we find older babies and toddlers so impossibly cute is so that parents will divert their resources towards them—the offspring most likely to survive.
“Hunter-gatherers who already had a child they were nursing, couldn’t nurse two children at once,” coauthor Tony Volk, explained in the statement. “If you’re a peasant mother in medieval England and you only have enough food for one child, and if having two means they’re both likely to die, it’s best just to have one child. These are difficult decisions that humans have made for thousands of years.”