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Psychology Critical Review

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A critical review: Chickens prefer beautiful humans by Ghirlanda, Jansson, and Enquist (2002)

Ghirlanda, Jansson, and Enquist (2002) used both humans and chickens as participants. With the assumption that similar processes can develop in any nervous system, a comparison of these two species’ preferences to human faces was made, with the aim of determining whether human preferences arise from general properties of the nervous systems, or from face-specific adaptations. However, several methodological issues have been encountered and are discussed below.
In their design, they used a set of seven faces as stimuli. These were increasing in femininity, ranging from exaggerated male traits to exaggerated female traits.

Figure 1: Set of seven faces as stimuli (Ghirlanda et al., 2002)

The experiment consisted of one training period and one testing period. During training, chickens were presented with, on a screen, only the average male and female faces for 10 seconds, or until these were pecked. Hens had to peck male faces, and cocks had to peck female faces in order to be rewarded with food, so the animals were taught to prefer the opposite sex. The training period lasted until the animals learned choice preference for the opposite sex faces, more specifically, when 75% of the total pecks were directed towards the rewarded face. Human participants, on the other hand, did not receive training, but were shown the set of faces, in a random order, once, before the testing phase. During the testing phase in chickens, presentation of the average male and female faces was as in the training period, with reward given. However, a test trial occurred every seven face presentations, which included the appearance, for 10 seconds, of one of the seven faces chosen randomly. The number of pecks was recorded as a measure of face preference, and no reward was offered in exchange...

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