INNOVATION

"Aww" To Be Recognised As Its Own Official Emotion

It’s the feeling (and sound) you make when you see something cute.

30/11/2016 10:10 AM AEDT | Updated 30/11/2016 10:59 AM AEDT
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How did you feel when you watched the above video?

It might be a baby animal, cute kid or soppy love story -- whatever it is, 'cute' things are often met with a reaction of 'aww'.

And it's that very reaction that Professor Ralf Buckley from Griffith's School of Environment at Griffith University wants to officially document.

While there are terms for 'cute' across most languages (for example, 'kawaii' in Japanese), none contain a single term for the corresponding emotional response. 'Kawaii' actually translates as 'loveable', but love is not the emotion of cuteness, in the same way that happiness is not the same as awe.

Buckley reveals that research in this field is forced to use blended terms, such as 'cute-emotion',' cute-effect', or 'kawaii-feeling', which is why he believes an official term is needed.

Ann and Steve Toon
All together now..."awwwwww!"

"Indeed, there is remarkably little published research on this emotion, relative to other human emotions such as fear, where social, behavioural, physiological, and neurological as well as psychological perspectives have been studied," Professor Buckley said in a media release.

"Lots of cultures and languages have words for cute, but none have formal names for the emotion. Why does a name matter? Because people don't think about things without names."

Buckley said that the linguistic deficiency is surprising, seeing as the 'cute-emotion' has considerable biological significance.

"Cute-emotion is principally a response to neotenic or baby-animal characteristics, such as big round eyes, small size, and softness. People experience a specific emotion when they see something cute."

Pixar
Pixar and Disney often use 'cute-features' to evoke the 'aww' emotion.

"These characteristics are involved in human mate selection and human parental care. Cuteness also has social functions, used in design and sales such as clothing, toys and videos," Buckley said.

"What do you say if you see something really cute? In English, probably, "aww", so that's the new name for cute-emotion!"

Buckley is proposing that 'cute-emotion' receives more attention in psychological research, building on existing studies, and adopting all the methodological approaches used widely in studying other human emotions.

Tara Moore
Doing the picture search for this story was pretty fun.

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