Wanting to squeeze a cute little baby or puppy that you saw on the way is a way that the brain employs when it deals with something very cute. This response is referred to as "cute aggression."
The "want" to squeeze the cute thing/cute aggression is triggered in the brain when we see something overwhelming cute.
‘Cute aggression could be our brainís way of coping with the overwhelming response that occurs when these two powerful brain systems are triggered suspect the authors, they believe that to stop the onslaught of positive feelings, the brain tosses in a dash of aggression.’
The results of this study are published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Katherine Stavropoulos, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside and her co-author Laura Alba have had done the study to find out how our brain influences our strange responses such as squeezing or pinching the cheeks of cute babies and animals.
For the experiment, they recruited 54 participants who were in between 18 and 40 years of age they also had to put on the EEG caps, which use electrodes to measure brain activity.
The recruits were then asked to look at 32 photos of cute things; these things were divided into four blocks: one had images of adult animals (which the authors here classified as "less cute"), one of the baby animals (classified as "more cute"), and two of human babies.
For the experiment, they altered the first block of human baby pics to enhance features that human's perceive as cuterólike big eyes and round cheeksówhile the other was altered make those traits less cute.
After seeing the photos, the participants were asked to fill out questionnaires that measured their responses to the photos clearly stating how cute they found the photo subjects and how much "cute aggression" they were experiencing.
They were also asked to rate the extent to which they agreed with statements like "I want to squeeze something." They also rated their own expressions of feeling overwhelmed by the pictures and of wanting to approach the subjects of the photos, and of wanting to care for these subjects.
As a result, the images of baby animals elicited the strongest response. The recruits expressed more of cute aggression, feeling overwhelmed, caretaking emotions towards the baby animals than adult animals.
They observed one more thing that the same distinction was not observed in the participants' reaction to images of babies that had been enhanced to look more or less cute, the authors believe that it could be because both sets of babies were "objectively pretty cute."
With the help of the EEG caps, researchers were also able to find out the brain activity of participants who experienced the cute onslaught.
The response was associated with a greater activity not only in the brain's emotional systems but also in its reward systems, which regulate motivation, pleasure, and feelings of "wanting."
Cute aggression could be our brain's way of coping with the overwhelming response that occurs when these two powerful brain systems are triggered suspect the authors, they believe to temper the onslaught of positive feelings, in other words, the brain tosses in a dash of aggression.
"[I]f you find yourself incapacitated by how cute a baby isóso much so that you simply can't take care of itóthat baby is going to starve," Stavropoulos says.