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Why Do We Want to Tear Apart Things We Find Cute and Adorable?

Posted by John Kim on

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We have all been there at some time or another. Everyone is smiling and saying “aw” at photos of an adorable little baby when someone says something like this:

“I just want to RIP HIS LITTLE CHEEKS OFF!”

“I could just EAT HIM WHOLE!”

“I just want to hug and CRUSH HIM!”

Everyone then turns and stares at that person in horror for giving voice to the thought that had been dwelling in each of their minds.

Despite what you may think, it is actually somewhat common for people to be beset with sudden violent and explosive urges when they see something extremely cute. Indeed, there was even a study that, while somewhat questionable, seemed to indicate that this phenomenon did in fact exist in a good deal of people.

The Yale Study

The study in question was conducted by a couple Yale graduate students, and consisted of some simple tests. The most notable test involved subjects that were given bubble wrap (because who doesn’t love bubble wrap?) and were sat down to look at a number of either cute images, neutral images, or “non-cute” images. The subjects were then observed to see if there were any significant differences in their behavior towards the bubble wrap.
It turns out that there was a very noteworthy change, with about a 20-30% increase in the amount of bubbles popped when shown the cute images as opposed to just neutral or funny pictures. While far from conclusive, this study does put some confidence in the entire concept of “cute aggression,” as the phenomenon has recently been coined.
So if this is a thing, then why?
Unfortunately, as you might expect, there are no definite answers, only hypotheses.  There have been several scientific hypotheses and guesses as to why we feel these urges (because for every strange subject, there are even weirder guesses and explanations as to why it is that way.)

Hypotheses

The first hypothesis is that the aggression manifests as a result of a disconnect that arises when viewing photos of a cute creature. Basically, the human desire to nurture (stimulated when seeing cute animals/babies) finds itself unable to be satisfied, leading to a need to release that frustration through an aggressive act. Of course, cute aggression can manifest even when the cute subject is within reach, which could mean that it may be a frustration of ownership rather than inability to feel (As in, the person feels frustrated that they do not own the responsibility/opportunity for caring for the cutie.)
Another hypothesis is that this impulse helps us regulate our own extreme emotions. Due to being overloaded with this positive emotion, the brain cannot handle the stimulation and releases some of it in the form of a negative emotion, in this case, aggression. The hypothesis goes that this follows a similar release in “happy tears” or nervous laughter. In all of these cases, seemingly contradictory emotions are expressed together in a way that almost heightens the first central emotion.

 

In the end, no one really knows for sure why we get such violent and explosive urges when we see cute things. What we do know is that we are not alone and that luckily, while we feel these urges, most of us have enough self control to not give in to them.

If you don’t, then please stay far far FAR away from animals, infants, and even our own plush products.

Do you find yourself overcome with these urges? Do you agree with any of these hypotheses, or perhaps have your own? Let us know in the comments below!


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