Hahn AC, Fisher C, Kandrik M, DeBruine LM & Jones BC (2015). Women’s, but not men’s, testosterone modulates the reward value of infant cuteness. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Columbia, Missouri, USA. May 2015.

Infant facial cuteness plays an important role in adult-child interactions, motivating caregiving behavior. While many studies have investigated hormone-linked responses to adult facial characteristics, hormone-linked responses to infant facial cues have received considerably less attention. Here we used a lever-press task to investigate the effects of cuteness on the reward value of infant faces in a sample of men and women. Each participant completed this task and provided a saliva sample in five weekly test sessions. Cuteness had a strong positive effect on the reward value of infant faces in women, but not men, replicating previous research. Multilevel analyses also showed a positive within-subject effect of women’s, but not men’s, testosterone level on the reward value of infant facial cuteness. This effect of women’s testosterone on the reward value of infant cuteness was independent of the possible effects of other hormones (e.g., estradiol and progesterone) and was independent of changes in women’s ability to identify cute infants. Together, these results demonstrate that hormone-linked changes in women’s responses to facial cues are not specific to adult faces and suggest that testosterone affects behavior towards infant faces differently in men and women.

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