The Influence of Baby Schema Effect and Mere Exposure Effect on Implicit and Explicit Face Processing: a Follow-Up Study



Faces are pivotal social stimuli that convey a tremendous amount of information and trigger numerous cognitive processes and consequent behaviors. Among the numerous factors that mediate face perception, we focused our attention on two particular phenomena and their interaction: the Baby Schema effect (BSE) and the Mere Exposure effect (MEE). Accordingly to the BSE, babies’ features are considered “cuter” than adults’ features and motivate people towards protection and caregiving, while the MEE states that familiarity can increase the like- ability of various stimuli, including faces. To investigate how those two factors interact, we carried out a follow- up study of the work of Venturoso et al. (2019) on a Singaporean sample. Singapore is a multicultural city-state where different ethnicities live alongside each other. Participants (ethnic Chinese and Indian) were shown faces of female adults and babies of different ethnic groups (Caucasian, Indian, Chinese and Arabic). Implicit responses were recorded using pupillometry measures, while explicit attitudes were assessed using a questionnaire. Our results confirm the presence of the BSE in both the explicit and implicit measures; specifically, baby faces elicited greater pupillary variations and were rated as more attractive than adult faces. An interaction effect between age and ethnicity was also observed. On the other hand, differences in pupil diameters and pleasantness scores were found between the ethnic groups on adult faces. The above-mentioned differences did not depend on whether stimuli belonged to the ethnic in-group or out-group of the participants, suggesting that exposure to individuals of different ethnicities reduces in-group favoritism. Further investigation is needed to better understand the complex interaction between BSE and MEE in our increasingly multifaceted reality.

General Information

Keywords: Baby Schema Effect, Mere Exposure Effect, Pupillometry, Faces, Attractiveness, Ethnic faces

Journal rubric: Face Science

Article type: scientific article


Funding. This research was supported by the NAP Start-up Grant M4081597 (G.E.) from Nanyang Technological University Singapore, the Singapore Ministry of Education ACR Tier-1 Grant (G.E., P.S.), Singapore Ministry of Education ACR Tier1 (G.E.), Singapore Ministry of Education Social Science Research Thematic Grant (MOE2016-SSRTG-017, P.S.). The founder agencies had no role in the conceptualization, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Acknowledgements. The authors are thankful to all participants for their time and cooperation.

For citation: Navarini N., Venturoso L., Gabrieli G., Truzzi A., Lim M., Setoh P., Esposito G. The Influence of Baby Schema Effect and Mere Exposure Effect on Implicit and Explicit Face Processing: a Follow-Up Study. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2021. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 124–140. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2021140209.


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Information About the Authors

Nora Navarini, Master Graduate in Psychology (Neuroscience), Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy, ORCID:, e-mail:

Leonardo Venturoso, Master Graduate in Psychology (Neuroscience), Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Master Student in Data Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy, ORCID:, e-mail:

Giulio Gabrieli, PhD Student, Psychology Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, ORCID:, e-mail:

Anna Truzzi, Doctor of Psychology, Postdoctoral Researcher in Developmental Neuroscience, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, ORCID:, e-mail:

Mengyu Lim, PhD Student, Psychology Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, ORCID:, e-mail:

Peipei Setoh, Associate Professor, Principal Investigator Early Cognition Lab, Psychology Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, ORCID:, e-mail:

Gianluca Esposito, Associate Professor, Principal Investigator Social & Affective Neuroscience Lab Psychol- ogy Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy, Singapore, ORCID:, e-mail:



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