Across the first year, most infants have approximately 2.5 times more social interactions with women than men. There is evidence that because of this differential experience, infants develop a cognitive representation for human faces that is weighted toward female-like and attractive. Subsequently, attractiveness is more salient when infants process female relative to male faces. These early asymmetries in facial experience and the greater saliency of attractiveness for female and male targets persist into early childhood, which contributes to attractiveness influencing children’s categorization and judgments of females more strongly than for males. During middle childhood, children’s facial representations become more differentiated, which might explain increases in children’s attractiveness biases for male targets during this developmental period. By adolescence, mating interests seem to combine with these developing facial representations to influence attractiveness preferences. This chapter reviews asymmetries in the saliency of attractiveness for female and male targets from infancy to adolescence and focuses on how cognitive facial representations likely guide how attractiveness influences children’s processing of female and male targets.
Part of the book: Perception of Beauty