December 10, 2018
Do you suffer from ‘cute aggression’? Many people do.
RIVERSIDE – (INT) - Have you ever looked at a puppy and had the urge to squeeze it? Or felt compelled to pinch a baby’s cheeks, albeit without a desire to harm it?

If you answered yes to either question, you’ve experienced a phenomenon called cute aggression — and you’re far from alone.

Until now, research exploring how and why cute aggression occurs has been the domain of behavioral psychology, said Katherine Stavropoulos, an assistant professor of special education at the University of California, Riverside.

In her research, Stavropoulos uses electrophysiology to evaluate surface-level electrical activity that arises from neurons firing in people’s brains. She said she first heard the term “cute aggression” after a team of Yale University psychologists released research related to the phenomenon in 2015.

“The Yale researchers initially found that people reported feeling cute aggression more in response to baby animals versus adult animals,” Stavropoulos said. “But even beyond that, people reported feeling cute aggression more in response to picture of human babies that had been digitally enhanced to appear more infantile, and therefore ‘more cute,’ by enlarging features like their eyes, cheeks, and foreheads.”

Another result Stavropoulos said lends weight to prior theories: The relationship between how cute something is and how much cute aggression someone experiences toward it appears to be tied to how overwhelmed that person is feeling.

“Essentially, for people who tend to experience the feeling of ‘not being able to take how cute something is,’ cute aggression happens,” Stavropoulos said. “Our study seems to underscore the idea that cute aggression is the brain’s way of ‘bringing us back down’ by mediating our feelings of being overwhelmed.”
Story Date: December 5, 2018
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