Motivational value and salience of images of infants Academic Article uri icon


  • Researchers have typically reported relatively greater preferences for infants among females than among males, though this varies somewhat across samples and age groups. The mechanism by which this sex difference occurs is not well understood and many studies rely on participants' self-reported preferences rather than measuring motivated behavior or patterns of visual attention directly. The present research consists of two independent studies investigating attention to infants. The aim of these studies was to extend research on the characteristics associated with interest in infants by measuring motivation to view infant faces (Study 1) and visual attention to infants in a complex visual scene (Study 2). In Study 1, participants controlled the length of viewing time for different images. Women demonstrated motivation to extend viewing of infants. Men showed the opposite pattern, working to decrease the length of time they viewed infants. In Study 2, participants were shown complex scenes that contained infants. Patterns of visual attention were measured using eye-tracking technology. Infants did not receive a particularly high proportion of fixations from either sex. However, there were relationships between gender-linked traits, such as digit ratio and self-reported interest in infants, and the percentage of fixations on infants. Additionally, participants who reported being in a romantic relationship demonstrated greater interest in infants. This suggests the long-reported sex difference in interest in infants may relate more to current life circumstances and gender linked traits than an overwhelming tendency among all members of a sex. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

altmetric score

  • 2.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Charles, N. E., Alexander, G. M., & Saenz, J.

citation count

  • 24

publication date

  • September 2013