What Makes Cute Animals Cute


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Throughout my whole life, there has never been a time where I see a cute baby animal, and don’t feel the urge to pet or cuddle it. While this has seemed normal and not unusual throughout my life, ever since we talked about mechanism in class, I have thought about the mechanism for why I feel the urge to do this, and why do only specific animals trigger this feeling. Due to these recent questions I have faced, I decided to research more about it.

To begin with why we even find any animal cute at all in the first place, we need to first understand the mechanism as to why we think human babies are cute, and the answer is quite logical. For humans at least, it takes years for us to mature. Since it takes us so long to even walk and talk by ourselves, we as a species need to think babies our cute, so they are taken care of and protected so that the human species is able to maintain its existence (Tyley 2015).

To answer why we find other baby animals cute is due to a few certain characteristics. According to Jodie Tyley, it is due to the baby schema. The baby schema is a group of physical features such as large eyes, large head, and chubbiness, that trigger our feelings to make us think animals with these characteristics are cute. These characteristics are found in human babies, so naturally, when other babies of different species contain these same characteristics, we feel the same overwhelming feeling of cuteness. Evidently, even non-animals that have these features can make us feel the same way. For example, the manufacturers of Mini Coopers designed the car to make us think it’s cute. They did this merely by adding large headlights, and made the car more rounded.

Going along with the fact that many of us feel urges to pet these cute animals, and even squeeze them, there is actually a reason why. This reason is called cute aggression. This aggression stems from the fact that we experience a high reaction when we see these animals, but we aren’t able to do anything about it. Although the science behind this sensation is not clear and definite yet, the main idea of reasoning is that there is a cross-wiring of reactions of cuteness and aggression when the dopamine is released as we see these animals, so we turn this conflicting feelings into mainly aggression (Scott 2015). 

As for what happens in your brain when you see a cute animal, the process occurs in the mesocorticolimbic system, which affects reward and motivation. When you see a cute baby animal, this part of your brain is stimulated, which then causes a release of dopamine, which is  a neurotransmitter that controls pleasure. Therefore, this process is the reason as to why you get a good feeling and feel warm inside when you see baby animals (Tyley 2015).

In conclusion, the next time you see a cute baby animal and feel a sudden urge to pet it, just remember that the reasoning is because we want the human species to survive, and it’s also good for your brain. 



2 thoughts on “What Makes Cute Animals Cute

  1. Melanie Noemi Campos

    Continuing on the topic of baby schema, which i am in fact learning currently learning about in my HDFS class at the moment, the characteristics you described like big eyes and chubbiness are not simply for us to think they are cute. Babies in fact use these characteristics to draw in the mother or caregiver with their big eyes, soft skin, and small noses. We tend to find these characteristics beautiful and they draw us in, babies use them to therefore attract the caregiver to them and attain proper physical care. The following research study further explains the different characteristics we find beautiful and that draw us in and what purpose/benefits these characteristics have for babies. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2008.01603.x/full

  2. Daniel J Lehecka

    I went home for the weekend to a friends house, and she has 2 dogs. They weren’t even particularly cute, but I couldn’t stop myself from saying “oh my god they’re so cute” Something about the way that their eyes look at you is just precious, and it makes me so happy. No matter what the dog is, I just melt and something in my brain happens to make me fall in love instantly. I’m beginning to think that there’s something hardwired into our brains to just love animals!

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