A British scientist said on Monday that a sense of visual attraction is hardwired in the brain at birth.
Psychologist Alan Slater of the University of Exeter told the British Association for the Advancement of Science conference that babies can recognise their mother from as little as 15 hours after birth.
He also claims infants show a preference for looking at photographs of physically attractive people.
"Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but in the brain of the newborn infant," he said.
In a series of experiments, he and his colleagues have shown that although babies enter the world visually naive, all their sensory system are functioning.
Babies show several spontaneous visual preferences. They like watching moving rather than stationary objects, prefer to look at three-dimensional stimuli and find faces fascinating.
When given a choice of two facial photographs to look at, babies usually prefer and spend more time gazing at the person who is better-looking.
"Infants prefer to look at the more attractive of two faces," said Slater.
Although a perception of attractiveness may be evident at birth, Slater said experience also plays a role in a person's conception of beauty.