When it comes to eliciting goodwill, not just any face will do. Even in the animal kingdom, people have preferences – with noticeable consequences. Money is more likely to flow to benefit the conservation of pandas, a celebrity species, than the endangered but far less heralded carrion-scavenging American burying beetle.

The human mind appears to have definite favorites – and turnoffs. Large, forward-facing eyes; round, cherubic heads; soft skin; tufts of hair; fuzzy bodies; and a charming...

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