Sorry to break it to you parents: But your cute-as-button baby is unlikely to appear in People magazine's Most Beautiful People or Sexiest Man Alive issues more than 18 years from now.
When researchers put the idea behind the hit song "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" to the test, it didn't hold up. Being a beautiful baby did not predict who would become the best-looking adults, a new study found.
Facial attractiveness is not stable from infancy into adulthood, suggests research published in the journal Infant Behavior & Development.
In one study, 253 college students rated the attractiveness of 40 infants (under age 2) and young adults (age 16 to 18) on a scale from 1 for "not that cute or attractive" to 7 for "very cute or attractive." Students evaluated each person's baby and high school yearbook photos.
All the pictures were grayed head shots showing the face from ear to ear and hairline to chin. That way coloring preferences, bad hair or ugly clothes wouldn't sway the judges.
In general, students rated more tykes as better looking than high school seniors. But the results showed there was no relationship between cuteness as a little one and attractiveness as a grown-up. A second study with 72 participants evaluating a different set of infant and adult photographs had similar findings.
"At first we thought the old adage that an attractive adult 'must have been a beautiful baby' must be true due to the constancy of one's genetics," says Marissa Harrison, an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg in Middletown, Penn. But then we realized babies have likely evolved to be cute to elicit care from parents, she explains. This improves their odds for survival and reproducing as adults. "Simply put, cute babies grew up and left more descendants than not cute babies," adds Harrison.
Adorable babies might not turn into real lookers as men and women because hormones affect facial appearance. "The proportion of androgens and estrogens in our bodies as we grow can determine our brow and jaw structure, skin clarity, and facial hair," says Harrison, the study's lead author.
So is there a better age during childhood that would give a better indication of adult attractiveness? According to Harrison, the hormones affecting facial structure and appearance kick in around puberty, so you'd probably have to wait until then to make a prediction.
To be more scientifically correct, perhaps the lyrics need to be "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Teenager"?
As parents and grandparents cradle their amazing bundles of joy wondering what the future holds, keep yet another popular saying in mind, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What have you noticed, readers? Do irresistible infants become knockouts when they get older?