Humans

A proud face is more attractive than a happy one, plus abstract art and goal-oriented babies in this week’s news

Goal-oriented newborns
Newborn babies aren’t just bundles of reflexes. Within two days of birth, infants pay special attention to adults’ simple, goal-directed actions, say psychologist Laila Craighero of the University of Ferrara in Italy and her colleagues. Newborns looked longer at a video of a hand reaching out to grasp a big blue ball than at videos showing a hand grasping the ball and then moving away from it or a hand reaching out to grasp at air, the researchers will report in Cognition. This finding is consistent with previous ultrasound evidence suggesting that fetuses intentionally touch their own mouths and eyes, the scientists say. —Bruce Bower

Stone Age stick-um
People living in what’s now western Germany affixed stone tools to wooden handles with a sticky substance made out of birch bark by around 120,000 years ago, a team led by archaeologist Alfred Pawlik of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City reports. Microscopic and chemical analyses described by the researchers in an upcoming Journal of Archaeological Science identified birch pitch residue on the attachment ends of 39 stone implements from a Stone Age camp. Heating of birch bark in small pits to produce an adhesive remained much the same in European cultures until several thousand years ago, the scientists say. —Bruce Bower

Happy guys no lookers
Attention, men on the make: Look proud, not happy. Women find a facial expression of pride to be especially attractive on guys, whereas happy male faces prove much less alluring, say psychologists Jessica Tracy and Alec Beall of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In contrast, men find happy female faces far more appealing than those of women who look proud, the researchers report in an upcoming Emotion. After studying face ratings made by more than 1,000 volunteers, Tracy and Beall suggest that men should opt for pride over pleasantness when, say, posting photos of themselves on online dating sites. —Bruce Bower

Not-so-abstract art
People who scoff that a child could have painted a splotchy, abstract piece of modern art see more in such creations than they realize. When forced to choose a favorite between a painting by a child, chimp or other animal and one by an abstract expressionist artist, people untrained in art usually picked the professional’s creation, even if it was mislabeled as that of a child or a non-human animal, say psychologists Angelina Hawley-Dolan of Boston College and Ellen Winner of Harvard University. People intuitively discern goals or intentions in artists’ abstract paintings, the researchers propose in an upcoming Psychological Science. —Bruce Bower

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