Nat Geo: Exploring our love for cute, and ugly-cute, animals
UC professor explains why these animals are so popular on social media
Exotic animals such as axolotls, bearded dragons and capybaras have become online sensations with billions of views on TikTok. To determine why these cute, or ugly-cute, animals are so popular, National Geographic turned to a University of Cincinnati professor.
Oriana Aragon, a social psychologist and assistant professor of marketing in UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, has spent the past decade researching cute things and our reactions to them.
Our love for axolotls, critically endangered amphibians native to Central Mexico, likely has to do with their big heads and large eyes, Aragon said. Those qualities remind us of human babies and activate our care-giving drive, she said.
“Cute is a huge influencer of human behavior,” Aragon said.
Capybaras, the world's largest rodent, also draw attention because of their cuteness, Aragon said. The South American animals “look vulnerable, rounded,” Aragon said, which could play into our care-giving impulse.
Additionally, capybaras and other exotic animals tap into our love of novelty.
Bearded dragons, lizards native to Australia, also are popular online. They look wild but often are getting attention from people in videos, a juxtaposition of wild and domestic that Aragon thinks causes us to find them appealing.
The nature of social media also plays a role in the animals' appeal, Aragon said.
Featured image at top: An axolotl, a critically endangered amphibian native to Central Mexico. Photo/izanbar/iStock
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