Have you ever been shown a photo of an adorable baby, brand new puppy or really cute kitten and your first reaction is to want to squeeze it? You may have noticed that you even had a physical reaction such as clenched fists (or jaw).
Turns out you're normal (and you don't have an alarming underlying violent streak. Phew). The emotion has been coined 'cute aggression' and scientists think there's a couple of reasons why we feel it.
It's essentially the same as crying at good news or smiling when you hear something bad. Ever smile at a funeral, or laugh when you hear about a celebrity death? Or cry when your baby is born, or when you see an elderly couple holding hands to cross the street? What's happening is that your brain is giving you an injection of an opposite emotion to bring you back from the brink of being so overwhelmed by the initial (and appropriate) emotion.
So, when you see something really cute you immediately have an extremely positive emotion, but that's quickly followed by 'an expression of what one would think is an opposing feeling', according to Professor Aragon, who conducted a study on the topic.
That may be in the form of wanting to squeeze, pinch or even bite the 'cute thing'. There's a theory that this impulse is heightened if we're looking at a picture or video of the cute thing, say, on the internet, rather than in real life -- and it happens because we cannot physically touch the thing, so we are frustrated.
Of course the urge to pinch, squeeze or bite is not in a violent way -- and another study looked at the likelihood of people wanting to, or saying they want to squeeze, pinch or bite, as opposed to actually doing it.
Interestingly, the reason we find babies and baby animals cute in the first place is so that we want to take care of them. Its nature's way of brainwashing us into looking after a small helpless being. Cool, huh?
So the next time you want to squish a kitten or pinch a bub's cheeks, know that it's just your brain's way of coping with how damn adorable that little creature is.
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