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There’s a Reason We All Want to Squish This Little Baby’s Face…

Remember when you saw that adorable puppy, kitty, or baby and it was so cute you just wanted to smoosh its face? Well, don’t feel too weird about it — new research has uncovered the reason behind this contrary instinct, and pretty much all of us have it.

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Photo courtesy of Bev Sykes via Flickr

Though our natural inclination is to provide for and protect the most adorable creatures on the planet, sometimes we fall a bit too much in love. That’s when we get aggressive. Now we know that results from a desire to bring balance back to our emotions, in an unconscious process called “dimorphous expression.”

Okay, so “dimorphous” is a fairly obscure word, but all it really means is that you act in the opposite way as you feel.

Put another way, this is the human (or, animal) version of Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.” It’s also kind of like crying when you’re really happy or a movie’s conflicted couple gets together in the end.

Researcher Rebecca Dyer at Yale University — who helped conduct the study of “cuteness aggression” — says although this seems to oppose prior research, it also kind of fits perfectly.

Though we get the urge for aggressive behavior toward cutie pies, we don’t really want to smash them. We just want to be able to control the positive emotions they give us by reacting negatively — it helps to keep everything equal.

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Photo courtesy Petful via Flickr

In the study, researchers showed participants pictures of cute animals, funny ones, and neutral or serious animals. Each subject had bubble wrap, and they were told to pop as many bubbles as they felt like popping. The results showed that people popped the most for cuties, the second-most for funnies, and the least for the neutral images.

So next time you see something adorable and you just want to squeeze it or cry, don’t feel bad! Turns out you’re normal, and we all want to eat up those little cutie pies.

Don’t believe the research? Watch this video and tell me you don’t want to smash something. Then maybe I’ll believe you.

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Matthew M. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Grand Valley State University, with emphases in fiction and nonfiction. He lives smack-dab between some railroad tracks and Grand Rapids Michigan's third-busiest road, and spends his time studying film and literary fiction.