Have you ever seen something so incredibly cute that you just want to squeeze and smoosh it to death? Before you start calling a defense lawyer Miami worrying that I will end up hurting your newborn baby, this sensation is a real condition known to psychologists as “cute aggression” and affects about half of all adults!
A recent study was published this past December in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience by Katherine Stavropoulos, a psychologist from the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. The study reveals that while many adults experience this sensation, the likelihood of harming anything cute is low. It also reveals that this is an involuntary response because the brain is overwhelmed with positive emotion.
This isn’t the first time that “cute aggression” has been studied. It has also been researched at Yale University. What makes this study different is that it focuses on the brain itself. A group of 54 young adults had the electrical activity of their brain recorded as they looked at images of animals and people. The images were of adults, babies, baby animals, and full grown animals. The images were also manipulated to look less cute and then exaggerated to look cuter (such as big eyes and big cheeks).
As the participants viewed the cuter images, they had higher activity in areas of the brain that deal with emotion. When a participant experienced cute aggression, the study showed that the brain started to stimulate activity in areas that deal with the reward system. Having both sides of the brain can be overwhelming for the brain. Psychologists believe that the negative emotion of aggression is a response to the overwhelming amount of positive emotion from cuteness.
The brain often produced negative emotions to counteract positive ones or vice versa. For example, laughing during silence, crying at weddings from happiness. The next time you see a cute puppy and feel the need to hold onto it and crush it, just know that it’s normal and you probably won’t crush the puppy!