Walking to class the other day, I was taken aback by the cuteness of the puppies in training that prance around campus. Why are puppies so cute? It’s not the most mature question to analyze, but surprisingly the reasoning behind my playful curiosity is relatively scientific. According to this blog, kinderschema, or baby schema, is the scientific theory to explain cuteness. This hypothesis encapsulates all of the physical features that humans consider “cute” in babies and animals, which range from large eyes to a soft body. However, the blog recognizes that kinderschema was originally developed somewhat anecdotally. Thus, scientists are starting to make up for the lack of psychological explanation behind this theory. In this study, the characteristics of baby schema are tested through a visual manipulation experiment. Groups of 3-6 year old children were randomly allocated either a control picture or a “cuteness enhanced” picture of a baby, dog, or cat. Then, they were asked to rate the cuteness. Their reaction to the picture was also observed, specifically tracking their attention towards the already established kinderschema qualities. To eliminate age being a potential bias, adults were also put through the same experimentation. As a result, the concepts of baby schema were confirmed, and predicted to be a potential part of early childhood development.
In addition, the study discovered that features of baby schema triggered feelings of “infantile stimuli,” or other feelings you get when you see something cute. For instance, this article shares that baby schema features are linked with the human desire to be caretakers. Oxford researchers are currently experimenting how parental brains react to infants, specifically in studying the was cuteness stimulates various natural senses. In addition to the urge to care take, this article delves deeper into the scientific reaction to the features of baby schema. Dopamine, or the neurochemical associated with pleasure, is released in the brain. This chemical reaction takes place in the mesocorticolimbic area of the brain, which is centrally located. Therefore, when our brains recognize cuteness, we experience subsequent happiness.
Overall, cuteness can be scientifically attributed to various physical features known as kinderschema. While there has been a limited amount of experimentation to back up this theory, it is very well acclaimed and almost able to be proven by self experimentation. See what I mean by looking at this! I would love to see more controlled experiments on this question, as it applies to a greater purpose than simply the feelings of seeing a puppy on the street. For instance, what is the significance that Frozen, ranked as the highest grossing animated film of all time, contains characters with larger eyes than traditional Disney characters? This New York Times article brings up the brilliant point that proving baby schema would not only help us to understand our own perception, but play a vital role in fields like design, entertainment, and advertising.