Pop quiz: What is your favorite thing about babies? A) Those oversized eyes? B) Their unbelievably soft skin? C) That delicious smell (dirty diapers aside)? D) That smile that actually causes parts of a mother’s brain to light up and encourages her to make up silly songs and faces? Most of us wouldn’t be able to pick and would choose E) all of the above. All of these characteristics contribute to a baby’s cuteness, and, according to a new study published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, this cuteness is responsible for triggering our willingness to care for, protect, and nurture babies. The cuteness effect is multi-sensory with examples being that new baby smell as well as those sweet coos and babbles — and the researchers found that the power of cuteness results in both behavioral and neurological responses in caregivers. Their cuteness draws us in and holds us, eliciting an immediate reaction as well as more long-term and complex caregiving behaviors. There’s really no escaping this great evolutionary survival mechanism, which is a boon for these utterly dependent creatures. The study’s lead author reports that, “Infants attract us through all our senses, which helps make cuteness one of the most basic and powerful forces shaping our behavior.” For the record, the study found that men and women, whether they have children or not, are both susceptible to the power of baby cuteness, not that we actually needed a study to tell us this. We can witness it any time a baby enters a room (perhaps with the exception of an airplane) and works his or her cuteness magic.
Image © Jill Fehrenbacher/Inhabitots