There's A Scientific Reason We Want To 'Eat' Cute Puppies
If you've ever looked at a puppy and said "you're so cute, I want to eat you," the chances are you're in the majority and there could actually be a scientific reason behind it.
Or if you've ever grabbed a baby's cheeks because they're so ridiculously adorable, there's a name for that too, and it's called 'cute aggression.'
Katherine Stavropoulos, assistant professor of special education at the University of California, wanted to understand more about the phenomenon and this is where it gets complicated.
She measured how neurons in the brain fire in response to different stimulants, for example photos of really cute animals to slightly less cute animals.
Katherine also showed images of babies with digitally enlarged facial features like eyes, cheeks and foreheads to make them conventionally cuter.
She got 54 participants in between the ages of 18 and 40 to wear caps lined with electrodes.
While wearing the caps, the people looked at four different blocks of pictures, divided into cute (enhanced) human babies, less cute (not-enhanced) human babies, cute (baby) animals and cute (adult) babies.
As was expected, the people involved in the study reported stronger reactions of cute aggression and feeling overwhelmed and caretaking towards cute baby animals in comparison to the less cute adult animals.
But surprisingly, this didn't carry through for photos of human babies and participants reported no differences between the enhanced and none-enhanced babies.
Katherine measured brain activitybefore, after and during viewing the photos and found cute aggression to be related to neural mechanisms of emotional salience. This put simply means that the brain's emotion system and reward system are both at work when we feel the need to 'eat up' an adorable puppy.
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