Exactly what the title says. We all recognise the feeling that we get when we see something cute like a cat or a baby. Is there any neurological, psychological or evolutionary explanation for why is it so?
How can we even define something as 'cute'? Google says that cute is that which is attractive especially by means of smallness or prettiness or quaintness, but that is not enough for me.
This question came to me when I got my "Aww... how cute!" moment yesterday when I saw my 1y-old baby brother sleep. I had a cat beforehand that made 3 kitties ( because of an affair ) and all of them, including the mother, ignited my "I-want-to-snuggle-with-them-they're-so-fluffy" feeling.
Is there any science behind this behaviour?
It does, because those individuals that kept care of their offspring were favoured by natural selection. In a great number of generations, those that took care of their children were those that survived, thus the genes that create this feeling were predominant.
I think cuteness applies to anything that present notable characteristics of human babies and that is why we might view domestic animals ( including fully grown ones ) as cute. A dog has big eyes compared to its head which is why we must feel attracted to it.
We might be tricked into viewing toys as cute even though it has no actual survival benefit apart from satisfying our hard-wired need for cuteness.
It makes more sense now. Here is a kirby for you, Nelson.
My understanding is that it is a reaction that makes us more inclined to protect our young, and also not kill them ourselves. I am told that reproducing is a painful and difficult process, and at many times the parents become quite frustrated. A species that thinks its babies are just too damn adorable to kill is a species that doesn't annihilate itself due to infanticide.
We find other animals cute by virtue of their similarity, partially do to coincidence, partially do to shared genes. We do share a significant amount of our genes with other animals. Particularly those closely related to us. Baby humans are the cutest thing to us. Followed by baby apes in general, then baby primates, then mammals, etc. The farther removed something is, the less cute we find it. Fish aren't particularly cute, but we still manage to slap a face on them and make a children's movie out of it. I have yet to hear of someone who thinks a baby bacteria is cute though.
It's a defense mechanism. Cuteness makes babies harder to kill at 3am when you're sleep deprived and they're screaming and projectile vomiting all over your furniture. : )