进化与人类行为2013-09-05 2:58 AM

Sex differences in visual attention toward infant faces

Parental care and alloparental care are major evolutionary dimensions of the biobehavioral repertoire of many species, including human beings. Despite their importance in the course of human evolution and the likelihood that they have significantly shaped human cognition, the nature of the cognitive mechanisms underlying alloparental care is still largely unexplored. In this study, we examined whether one such cognitive mechanism is a visual attentional bias toward infant features, and if so, whether and how it is related to the sex of the adult and the adult’s self-reported interest in infants. We used eye-tracking to measure the eye movements of nulliparous undergraduates while they viewed pairs of faces consisting of one adult face (a man or woman) and one infant face (a boy or girl). Subjects then completed two questionnaires designed to measure their interest in infants. Results showed, consistent with the significance of alloparental care in human evolution, that nulliparous adults have an attentional bias toward infants. Results also showed that women’s interest in and attentional bias towards infants were stronger and more stable than men’s. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that, due to their central role in infant care, women have evolved a greater and more stable sensitivity to infants. The results also show that eye movements can be successfully used to assess individual differences in interest in infants.

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