Studies of perceptual judgments of infant faces suggest that women using oral contraceptives are more sensitive to cute infant facial characteristics than are women with natural menstrual cycles (Sprengelmeyer et al., 2009 Psychological Science). These results may implicate sex hormones in the regulation of responses to infant facial cues. It is not known if this link between oral contraceptive use and cuteness sensitivity is also evident in measures of the motivational salience of infant cuteness. Using an established measure of motivational salience, we show that (1) women will expend more effort to view cuter infant faces and (2) this effect of cuteness on motivation is greater among oral contraceptive users than it is among women with natural menstrual cycles. Importantly, this latter finding was not an artifact of the possible effects of partnership status and maternal desire. These findings are consistent with the proposal that sex hormones may influence motivation to engage with cute infants, which may function to optimize the allocation of maternal resources and attachment behaviors in new mothers.
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