THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, May 20, 1995 TAG: 9505200342 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A6 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS DATELINE: NEW YORK LENGTH: Medium: 66 lines
In a startling demonstration of how it pays to be good-looking, a new study says cute babies get nicer treatment - even from Mom.
Mothers of cute newborns showed more affection toward their infants than mothers of homely babies did, as measured by such things as holding the child close, patting him or her and cooing things such as ``Hi, cute baby, you're such a cute baby.''
In contrast, mothers of the unattractive babies spent more time than cute-baby moms did paying attention to other people and performing chores, like checking diapers.
``We're not suggesting that parents are not completely in love with their babies even if their babies are unattractive,'' researcher Jean Ritter said. ``All these mothers treated their babies positively and generally saw their babies in a favorable light.''
But the study follows others that suggest good-looking people are seen and treated by others as more popular, smarter and better at dealing with other people. The new findings, she said, demonstrate that these ``appearance cues'' are so powerful that they exist even between mother and child.
Ritter, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University in Fresno, reports the work with Judith Langlois of the University of Texas at Austin and others in the May issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.
She said that the differences in treatment were too subtle to be noticed by a casual observer and that it was not clear whether they would affect a child's development.
The study initially involved a 20- to 30-minute period of observation before the moms and babies went home from the hospital. Most of the mother-baby pairs were observed again three months later, and the only behavior difference at that time was showing affection, and only in mothers of boys. No difference appeared in routine care or in active play like bouncing or jiggling.
The influence of baby cuteness seemed to be waning by three months of age, probably because the mother was getting to know the baby better and so was not swayed so much by appearance, Ritter said.
The study compared the behavior of 67 mothers with attractive first-born babies and 69 mothers with unattractive first-borns at a hospital in Austin.
Attractiveness was rated by a group of college students who looked at color photos of the babies; the mothers were not asked for their ratings.
The mothers were low-income and from a variety of ethnic groups. Ritter said she believes the results would apply regardless of income level or ethnic group.
Alan Fogel, a University of Utah psychology professor who studies communication between mothers and infants, said the results make sense because American culture puts so much emphasis on attractiveness.
But Ritter said research shows appearance is important in other cultures, too, and that even infants prefer to look at an attractive face instead of a homely one. ILLUSTRATION: ASSOCIATED PRESS photo
Ceana Hill, 10 months old, is held by her mother, Juliana Rule,
outside the Parent Child Center in Atlanta Friday.
KEYWORDS: STUDY BABY BABIES by CNB