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Edwin Burns, Ebony Murray, Rachel Bennetts, Sarah Bate, Alice Chan, Hong Xu; Neural origins of cuteness perception and caregiving motivation: evidence from developmental and acquired prosopagnosia. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):920. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.920.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Cuteness is an intrinsic quality conveyed by infant faces that elicits strong nurturing desires in the viewer. Where these perceptions of cuteness first arise in the brain are, however, still the matter of some debate. Individuals with developmental prosopagnosia suffer lifelong impairments in face recognition due to atypicalities associated with their fusiform gyrus. If the fusiform gyrus has a key role to play in cuteness perception and the elicitation of a caregiving response, then we would expect these cases to also suffer abnormalities in these behaviours. We tested this hypothesis by asking a group of developmental prosopagnosia cases and matched controls to rate the cuteness of, and their desire to provide care to, a range of infant and adult human and animal faces. As anticipated, the prosopagnosia cases were reduced in their perceptions of infant cuteness and reported a lower desire to give care for the human baby faces. Further testing of an acquired prosopagnosia case that had lesions encompassing his fusiform gyrus replicated these atypicalities in cuteness perception and caregiving. The fusiform gyrus is therefore the likely neural origin of our perceptions of cuteness, which in turn activates subsequent brain regions involved in complex, altruistic behaviours. Due to lower parental motivations typically being associated with poorer quality parent-infant interactions, we predict our findings will have serious clinical implications for those with prosopagnosia and their children.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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