The concept of cuteness and our instinctive response towards babies, both human and those of other species, can be explained through the concept of “baby schema” or “kindchenschema,” as proposed by the Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz. Baby schema refers to a set of physical features that evoke caregiving responses in adults. These features include a large head, large eyes, a small nose, and other adorable traits commonly found in human babies and even some animal offspring.
Lorenz’s studies and subsequent research have shown that when adults encounter these baby-like features, they tend to feel a strong emotional response and a desire to care for and protect the baby. This response is believed to be an innate and natural instinct in humans, ensuring the survival and well-being of the vulnerable infants who cannot fend for themselves.
The University of Pennsylvania’s research further supported Lorenz’s theory by demonstrating that the cuter individuals found a baby, the more they felt inclined to care for them. This instinctive response isn’t limited to human babies; it extends to cute baby-like characters, such as the droid BB-8 from the Star Wars franchise, which became extremely popular due to its adorable appearance.
The physiological changes and empathetic responses triggered by cuteness are also observed in research. When people encounter cute faces or hear cute baby sounds, certain parts of their brains are activated, which may contribute to the positive emotional reactions. Additionally, images of distressed or cute babies often elicit more significant emotional responses than similar images of adults, which can drive empathy and sensibilities in human adults.
In summary, the concept of cuteness and our innate response towards babies, whether human or of other species, is rooted in evolutionary instincts to care for and protect vulnerable offspring. The baby schema, with its characteristic features, compels us to feel a strong emotional connection and a desire to nurture and support these adorable beings.