The science of cute.

The NYTimes has an article on why cute is so damn cute.

Do these baby pandas make you think of: a.) reproducing b.) Japanese schoolgirls c.) snorting coke d.) all of the above?

I generally don’t buy biological explanations for such culturally overdetermined phenomena as baby panda madness, snowflakes on kittens, and all things Japanese, but I find this passage fascinating:

Even as they say a cute tooth has rational roots, scientists admit they are just beginning to map its subtleties and source. New studies suggest that cute images stimulate the same pleasure centers of the brain aroused by sex, a good meal or psychoactive drugs like cocaine, which could explain why everybody in the panda house wore a big grin.

At the same time, said Denis Dutton, a philosopher of art at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, the rapidity and promiscuity of the cute response makes the impulse suspect, readily overridden by the angry sense that one is being exploited or deceived.

“Cute cuts through all layers of meaning and says, Let’s not worry about complexities, just love me,” said Dr. Dutton, who is writing a book about Darwinian aesthetics. “That’s where the sense of cheapness can come from, and the feeling of being manipulated or taken for a sucker that leads many to reject cuteness as low or shallow.”

Well, if you’re in the mood for some cheap thrills, as I almost always am, these sites should keep you squealing with delight until the shame and anger set in:

Cute Overload
KittenWar
Pandafix

4 thoughts on “The science of cute.

  1. New studies suggest that cute images stimulate the same pleasure centers of the brain aroused by sex, a good meal or psychoactive drugs like cocaine…

    This would explain that faint desire to squeeze and/or bite the faces of adorable animals. I mean, not that I really want to, but kind of. And I know that must sound pretty weird.

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