So, I recall seeing some article which claimed scientific research found that the average child registered as "cute" to the average adult (relatives and non-relatives alike) until about age 4, after which time the evaluation of their appearance became more of a normal distribution. The reason for this was of course that up until that point the child was very vulnerable and needed all adults to want to help it, or at least not kill it. I'm hoping you can find this research or coverage of this research for me. thanks!
According to a research paper titled "On cuteness: Unlocking the parental brain and beyond" published in 2016, cuteness in babies is a "potent protective mechanism". Attributes like large eyes, plump cheeks and giggles are designed to urge others to take care of them while they are at a stage when they are entirely dependent.
Professor Morten Kringelbach who led the research published in 2016 says that cuteness affects people regardless of gender and parental status. Cuteness serves as a survival mechanism for children and infants, because it triggers "caregiving, which cannot be reduced to simple instinctual behavior." The quality of cuteness affects us through all our senses. It triggers "fast privileged neural activity ", which is followed by "slower processing in large brain networks". The author's official email ID is email@example.com. The paper was co-authored by Eloise Stark, Catherine Alexander, Professor Marc Bornstein and Professor Alan Stein.
According to past research, cuteness in children is linked with the idea that an infant's facial features create ‘innate releasing mechanisms’ that will elicit inherent caregiving behavior. This is referred to as ‘Kindchenschema' (infant schema). There are certain facial cues in infants that evokes protective instincts in others, regardless of whether they are biologically related. This increases the child's chance of survival.
Additional research published in 2011, authored by Li ZhuLuo, HongLi and KangLeecd, asked participants to evaluate the faces of children from infancy to age 6. It was found that at age 4.5 years, the baby schema mentioned above stops affecting adult's judgment. After this point, some children may still appear cute, but they would not look 'super cute' to everyone and more average instead.
In conclusion, There are two research papers, as mentioned above, to prove that cuteness in babies is a survival mechanism to encourage care-giving behavior while they are dependent and this cuteness wears off at the age of 4.5 years.