Popular Mechanics: Cute aggression could have evolutionary benefits

UC professor explores why emotions don’t seem to match true feelings

The desire to squeeze a puppy or pinch a baby’s cheeks might have an evolutionary basis that makes people better caretakers and contributes to our survival, Popular Mechanics reported.

Oriana Aragon headshot

Oriana Aragon, assistant professor of marketing

Oriana Aragon, PhD, a social psychologist and assistant professor of marketing in the University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, first identified the phenomenon of cute aggression a decade ago.

While individuals may feel a strong urge to squeeze something cute, there’s no desire for harm. Rather, it’s a mismatch of expressions.

“[D]imorphous expressions are when your emotions do not match what we would normally expect you to be feeling based upon your emotional expression,” Aragon said. “So, if you were to see people crying tears of joy, when removed from context, people think that the person is sad. In context, for instance, when receiving an award or seeing a loved one for the first time in a long time, those tears are easily interpreted as representing a positive emotion.”

Researchers have suggested the feelings of cute aggression could be a release valve for emotions when seeing something cute or act as a reminder to treat fragile babies with care.

“Physical characteristics such as physical roundness, large wide-set eyes, round cheeks, small chins, and even being a miniature version of something create ‘cuteness,’” Aragon said. “These features can make human babies and baby animals seem cute, and even products such as cars can seem cute when they have these features.”

See more from Popular Mechanics.

Featured image at top: Father holding his baby boy. Photo/Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

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