The Psychology behind Cuteness

The Psychology behind Cuteness


By stimulating brain networks linked to emotion and joy as well as empathy and compassion, cuteness may also help to promote well-being and complex social interactions. When we encounter something beautiful, it triggers rapid mental activity in areas linked to emotion and fulfillment, such as the orbitofrontal cortex. It also piques our curiosity in a biased way because newborns have preferential access to our minds’ conscious attention. We enjoy staring at babies and other beautiful things as a result. Studies show that people find it more enjoyable to gaze at the cute faces of babies than those of adults, and they may even provide a toy or activity to a toddler whose face they think is cuter.

Allure of Cuteness

Studies have also revealed that cuteness affects human beings, even if they are not parents, and that even infants and children choose attractive toddler faces. Adorable toddlers also make us want to move; research has shown that people will make an extra effort to look longer at endearing young faces. Neuroimaging research has shown that in adults, the orbitofrontal cortex turns active right away—140 ms, or a seventh of a second after seeing a toddler’s face. The orbitofrontal cortex is strongly concerned with orchestrating our feelings and pleasures, so its fast activity can also partially explain how toddlers can catch our attention so quickly and completely.

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Cuteness additionally initiates a reaction that takes place an awful lot more slowly. The preliminary rapid interest triggers slower, extra-sustained processing in huge brain networks. This form of mental activity is related to complex behavior in caregiving and bonding, which are the hallmarks of parenting. Caring for an infant requires a set of abilities that take time to collect and hone, and this gradual attainment of information adjusts the caregiver’s brain. This intricate caring behaviour is not entirely attributable to the first, primal reaction to cuteness.

Why does cuteness matter?

In a sequence of research, O’Neil and Shiota explored whether or not and how we reply to lovely matters. They determined that, after showing humans movies of lovable children or toddler animals, individuals tended to spontaneously consider one of the facial expressions, which might differ from the ones associated with other effective feelings.

According to research, we are drawn to people who are cute and desire to support, care for, and nurture them (Kringelbach et al., 2016). Our responses seem to be preprogrammed by evolution, most likely because doing so increases the likelihood that our offspring will live and carry on our genes (O’Neil, Danvers, & Shiota, 2018). Indeed, we could consider cuteness to be a sort of superpower that pups (or babies) possess—a capacity that enables them to obtain resources from caretakers such as food and protection.

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Influence of the Parental Care System:

The term “parental care system” refers to a larger set of psychological and behavioral traits that include this cuteness response (Kenrick et al., 2010; Schaller, 2018). Fascinatingly, studies with more than 15,000 participants across 42 societies discovered that this is usually one of the strongest drives people have (Ko et al., 2020; Pick et al., 2022a). It outweighs our need to ward off infectious diseases, advance in social standing, or locate romantic partners. Furthermore, it seems to have grown stronger during the pandemic.

This system causes us to avoid taking risks, diminishes our trust in strangers, and reduces our desire to pursue one-night romances, as well as making us protective and nurturing of persons we find attractive (Schaller, 2018). It is debatable whether all of these psychological consequences increase the likelihood that we will care for and protect children.

This parental care incentive appears to have an impact on our political attitudes as well. A recent study found that persons in countries ranging from Australia to Lebanon were more politically conservative as their score on this motivation increased (Kerry et al., 2022). When researchers experimentally create this drive, people’s political attitudes change in a similar way.

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Can cuteness make us better people?

One excellent illustration of how cuteness can lead to progressive, continuous processing of the mind in networks associated with emotion, happiness, and social connections is parenting. Yet, as seen by our current interest in other babies and young animals in addition to our own newborns, cuteness can foster empathy and compassion outside of the context of parenthood. By extending the bounds of what we consider to be worthy of ethical attention, engaging in this network of mind hobbies may also enable cuteness to reinforce ethical challenge. For instance, a picture of a cute child or baby animal can encourage us to give more money to organizations.

Evolutionary Roots of our Affection

Psychologically speaking, the reason individuals are drawn to cute things is that they make them feel protective, caring, and affectionate. Our brains, experience a pleasant emotional reaction when we view something charming, such an adorable baby animal or a cartoon character with large eyes and little features. The release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter connected to pleasure and reward, is frequently linked to this reaction. Furthermore, smiling and reducing tension are two other benefits of looking at cute things. It’s possible that human’s evolutionary affinity for cuteness aided in the care and protection of their progeny as well as the development of social relationships among groups.


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