The Science Behind Overwhelming Cuteness

In a phantasmic TED-Ed lesson written by Joshua Paul Dale and directed by Oksana Kurmaz, narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott explains what humans consider to be cute and how domestic animals have changed how they look over centuries to generate positive responses regarding their cuteness. Also discussed is the odd phenomenon that encompasses an overwhelming urge for some to squeeze, smoosh, or even bite an adorable creature of any species. This latter reaction is known as “Cute Aggression”.

Watching a kitten fumbling around, it might feel as if you’ve never encountered anything so devastatingly adorable in your mortal life. You may want to pet its soft fur and kiss its tiny head. But you may also feel the conflicting urge… to squeeze or smush the kitten, maybe even stuff it in your mouth.

Scientists have found that people don’t actually act on these urges, rather it is a coping mechanism.

…cute aggression is importantly not linked to the actual intention to do harm. Instead, it seems to result from emotional overload. Some scientists think that cute things elicit such positive emotions from certain people that the experience becomes overwhelming. They hypothesize that slightly aggressive, discordant thoughts are the brain’s way of putting the brakes on and regulating those intense feelings— not getting you to actually eat a kitten. Cuteness can come off as a frivolous, innocent quality, but it wields immense, consequential power.

via Miss Cellania

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.