How Cuteness Actually Manipulates Our Brains

“You’re so cute, I could just eat your leg!”

Creepy, right? And yet, when we are confronted with something incredibly cute, that’s exactly how we feel (whether we admit it out loud or not). There is a name for this phenomenon—cute aggression—and it’s how cute things have been manipulating our brains for millennia.

How Can You Measure Cuteness?

First things first, wondering how scientists actually measure cuteness? (Yep, they’ve standardized it.) They use the theory of kinderschema (literally translated to mean ‘children’s scheme’), which is a set of physical traits that humans are naturally drawn towards.

Traits determined by this theory to elicit feelings of cuteness include:

  • large rounded head, relative to body size
  • large, protruding forehead
  • big eyes, relative to face
  • chubby cheeks
  • rounded body shape
  • soft skin or fur

Dachshund puppy in the hands of its female owner.

How Cuteness Manipulates Our Brains

Okay, back to cuteness’s effect in the brain. When we encounter something adorable with any number of these traits, it activates the regions associated with emotion and pleasure in our brains, which means our brains are wired to ensure that we like looking at cute things.

It makes sense. The more we look at cute things, the better able we are to protect them—since most young, cute things can’t take care of themselves. Even looking at animated characters like Pikachu can hijack our brains and stimulate that rewards system in the same way that sugar does.

Cuteness is powerful and one of nature’s greatest manipulators.

Cute Aggression, Explained

But why do we get so aggressive when we see adorably cute creatures? It’s an evolutionary mechanism to ensure that we actually take care of these helpless creatures, rather than sit incapacitated by how overwhelmingly cute they are.

By experiencing this surge of urge and longing to be near, hug, snuggle and protect the cute creature, we are able to come back down to our senses more quickly. Because that quick and aggressive spike of obsessive chemicals in the brain has come and gone, we can take care of babies while still maintaining that powerful bond.

Baby cat

So maybe it’s okay that we turn into obsessive Lennys as we hug and squeeze our cute little Georges whenever we get the chance. It helps us to take care of them—babies, puppies, kittens, or otherwise.

I mean, if babies were not cute, can you image the ramifications? Seriously—baby animals are actually kind of gross when you think about it. It’s their cuteness that hot-wires our brains to encourage us to protect them through their infant stages—rather than giving up and abandoning them in the midst of a crying, barking, pooping fit.

To ensure we actually want to take care of young creatures, the brain has to overdo it a little, which means we experience some slightly creepy cute aggression. But don’t worry, no one is actually going to eat your kitty’s ears—hopefully.

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Images via Getty

90 comments

Barbara S
Barbara S18 days ago

Thanks

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Ardelia Amanda
Ardelia Amanda23 days ago

tyfs

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Olivia H
Olivia H1 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Vincent T
Vincent T3 months ago

Thank you

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Thomas M
Thomas M5 months ago

thank you

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer5 months ago

Hmmmm. I never thought of 'eating' something that was cute.

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Ann B
Ann B5 months ago

cute is cute but we all have a different definition of cuteness???

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Maria P
Mia P6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Thomas M
Thomas M6 months ago

thank you

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Janis K
Janis K6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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