A baby's cuteness is determined by your reproductive hormones

If you're tying to figure out how cute a baby is, you had better ask a premenopausal woman: they're scientifically proven to have the highest cuteness sensitivity. Yes, this experiment involved coming up with an objective scale of baby cuteness.

Back in 2009, researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland decided to test how good different groups were at determine baby cuteness. They found that women aged 19-26 and 45-51 were more sensitive to cuteness than any male age group. Women aged 53 to 60 performed at the same not particularly impressive level as the men at detecting subtle changes in baby cuteness.

Realizing that the average age of menopause is 51 in the United Kingdom, the researchers tested whether the onset of menopause is what caused the older women to lose their sensitivity to baby cuteness. Indeed, premenopausal women consistently outperformed their postmenopausal counterparts, and women taking oral contraceptives - which boost the levels of reproductive hormones - also did better than those who weren't taking them.

Basically, the more estrogen and progesterone a woman had, the better she was at detecting baby cuteness. This research raises two very important questions. First, why exactly do women of reproductive age need to be more aware of a baby's cuteness? If I can indulge in some crap speculation, you might think that humans would have evolved to just find all babies equally cute - after all, there are always some ugly babies, so why risk a mother's love and care because she doesn't think it's cute enough? Yeah...if that's the kind of speculation I'm coming up with, probably best to just say this is a mystery and leave it at that.

But speaking of ugly babies, how exactly did the researchers put together their scientifically precise scale of baby cuteness? The paper mentions that they took four sets of baby faces were taken and averaged together to highlight both more cute features and less cute ones. More baby photos were then run through a computer program that digitally altered them so that they resembled those of the composites, allowing them to make each baby more or less cute with the click of a button.

Of course, that still doesn't answer the fundamental question here of just how the researchers created their cuteness scale. And, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I can only assume this team of thirteen psychologists sat around a table and argued long into the night about what features make for the cutest babies. And then, presumably, they asked some mothers for photos of their ugly babies to create those composites. If any of that is even remotely true, this is easily the greatest scientific experiment of all time.

Via NCBI ROFL. Image by Julien Haler on Flickr.