Cuteness perception determined by hormones
Hormones may explain why woman are more likely to coo over babies than men, scientists said today.
Researchers at St Andrews University looked at how easily women and men of different ages picked out a "cute" baby using computer images.
The study showed women aged up to 51 were able to determine an "attractive" baby by its chubby cheeks, large forehead, big round eyes and button nose - men struggled to distinguish a cute baby from any other.
However women aged 53-60 years performed at the same level as men in determining the "attractiveness" of the new-borns.
The researchers say "cuteness sensitivity" is influenced by female reproductive hormones.
Dr Reiner Sprengelmeyer, of the university's school of psychology, said: "We found that young women between 19-26 and 45-51 years were more sensitive to differences in infant cuteness than men aged 19-26 and 53-60 years.
"Because average age at menopause is 51 years in the UK, these findings suggest the possible involvement of reproductive hormones in cuteness sensitivity.
"We therefore compared cuteness discrimination in pre- and post-menopausal women of the same age alongside women taking and not taking oral contraceptives.
"Pre-menopausal women and young women taking oral contraceptives - which raise hormone levels artificially - were more sensitive to variations of cuteness than their respective comparison groups."
Men and women in the study looked at more than 100 baby photographs and selected 10 of "the cutest".
From these the researchers combined their characteristics to create one typically appealing face shape.
Another 10 photos were selected to create a "less appealing" baby face shape.
The St Andrews psychologists worked with researchers from the universities of Bern, Bielefeld and York during the study.
Further research will explore whether or not cuteness sensitivity is implicated in post-natal depression.