The science of cuteness

The science of cuteness

Or why you prefer this:

Flickr user iolaire via Wikipedia

Flickr user iolaire via Wikipedia

To this:

Flickr user Jedimentat44 via Wikipedia

Flickr user Jedimentat44 via Wikipedia

Don’t you just want to cuddle the tiny bald rodent?

Our love for cute things comes down to the utter helplessness of human babies.


Sharon Pruitt via Wikipedia

Kyle Flood via Wikipedia

Kyle Flood via Wikipedia

While youngsters of many other species are galloping around fields or swinging from trees, little humans are in grave danger of being left alone for too long and rolling obliviously off the sofa.

A baby’s inability to do, well, anything means they would perish left alone. But, life-draining and needy creatures that they are, they need a persuasive tool: cuteness.

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Otherwise we may have fled from the sleepless horror of parenthood towards freedom, alone time and riches. Fun for the parents, but dangerous for the continued existence of humanity. Thankfully, the ‘awww’ reflex evolved.

But why do we find other animals cute? Zoologist Konrad Loranz compiled a ‘cute list’ of adorable characteristics. And basically babies are so defenceless that this list is long enough to accept a load of other animals too. Including these kittens.

physics cats

Sleepy 2



These kittens are exploiting our evolutionary drives with their big round eyes and their fluffiness.

Fortunately for YouTube, many mammalian young share features with human babies for which, according to Loranz, we go wild. These include a “large, protruding forehead”, “rounded body shape” and – this one really melts my heart – “soft, elastic body surfaces”.

We even find deadly animals adorable

The slow loris in this video may be all polite big eyes and “oh this is for me? Are you sure I deserve this food?”, but it can release a toxin which is deadly to humans.

Cute images have been found to tickle the same pleasure centres of the brain stimulated by sex, food or psychoactive drugs.

Which explains the huge grin on my face each time I watch that video.

So next time you’re procrastinating with puppy videos, blame evolution.

Featured image: Klearchos Kapoutsis via Wikipedia.

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