What makes something “cute”?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, cute is “having a pleasing and usually youthful appearance : attractive in a sexual way : clever in an appealing way.” Helpful? I didn’t think so. So again I ask, what is “cute”? Why is a puppy or a kitten cute, maybe even something made-up, and yet a snake is not? Have you ever thought of it?
Konrad Lorenz, an Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist, proposes the concept of the baby scheme, “Kindchenschema,” that we attribute cuteness to things that imitate features of a baby in our minds, such as smallness, juvenileness, and especially a small face with big eyes, which stimulates a nurturing instinct (Melanie). But why are babies “cute”?
Because they wouldn’t survive if they weren’t. Think about it, babies are the most selfish things on the planet, they are the definition of egocentric. Their whole world revolves around them. When they want fed, they want fed now! When they what affection, they want it now! When they want their diaper changed, even if it’s at 3 A.M., they want it changed now!! They don’t care about anyone but themselves, (of course, is it truly their fault?)
(Scientists have also found that cuteness triggers the nucleus accubens, a pleasure center in the brain, which releases dopamine into the body, the same part of the brain targeted by cocaine, heroine, meth, and morphine (Melanie). It can also be activated by music, food, sex, as well as “pleasant, emotional rousing pictures and during mental imagery of pleasant, emotional scenes” (Costa; Sabatinelli.))
So, is cuteness just an evolutionary effect for infants to survive without being strangled? or in reverse, to keep us from harm? (for example, not dying from hugging the “cute” venomous snake) or is their more to it?
Is cute a tool created for evolution, but not just? May it also be a way for the Creator to give another aspect in which to enjoy His creation?
I mean come on, I bet even a football player would say, “aw” at that little, adorable face. Doesn’t seeing something “cute” just make you want to enjoy life? and bring those warm fuzzies to your heart (even if you don’t want to admit it). Yes, cute may help a puppy survive from being murdered for peeing on the carpet for the hundredth time–those big, chocolate brown eyes–but I believe, that it is also another gift that God has blessed us with, to appreciate this world in which He has given us.
Costa, VD, Lang, PJ, Sabatinelli, D, Bradley MM, and Versace, F (2010). “Emotional imagery: Assessing pleasure and arousal in the brain’s reward circuitry”. Human Brain Mapping 31 (9): 1446–1457. doi:10.1002/hbm.20948. PMID 20127869.
“Cute.” Merriam Webster Dictionary.com. 2014. Web Sept. 24, 2014.
Melanie L. Glocker, Daniel D. Langleben, Kosha Ruparel, James W. Loughead, Jeffrey N. Valdez, Mark D. Griffin, Norbert Sachser, and Ruben C. Gur. “Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women.” PNAS 2009 106 (22) 9115-9119; published ahead of print May 18, 2009, doi:10.1073/pnas.0811620106.
Sabatinelli, D, Lang, PJ, Bradley, MM, Costa, VD, and Versace, F (2007). “Pleasure rather than salience activates human nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex”. Journal of Neurophysiology 98 (9): 1374–1379. doi:10.1152/jn.00230.2007. PMID 17596422.