Cute. What does it mean and why are we attracted to the small and young of the animals we know? There’s a good chance one is going to rather want to find and view six lion cubs opposed to six adult lions. But why is this the case?
It’s believed to be related to the word beauty. Beauty is the adjective given to the things which please our eyes, which bring about elevated levels of dopamine (the hormone of happiness) and thus soothe us, yet beauty can be found in most things and stem from the eye of the beholder.
Cute things are sometimes beautiful and sometimes admirable. Sometimes cuteness is induced through what one has been told and sometimes it’s the thing you truly feel. Our psyche is a biased one; biased by the definitions given to us by our older generations and the information we get told or see on a daily basis.
But how does our brain decide if something is cute or not?
We can only feel. It is an emotion. We cannot define feelings in words, yet we try. So, there are words made to describe some particular feeling or emotion. And there is this feed in our mind which actually categorise cuteness. Your level of feeling may differ but once you hear the word “cute”, you will understand what others want to convey.
Cuteness may help to facilitate well-being and complex social relationships by activating brain networks associated with emotion and pleasure, triggering empathy and compassion. When we encounter something cute, it ignites fast brain activity in regions such as the orbitofrontal cortex or frontal lobe, which are linked to emotion and pleasure.
So what makes something cute or cuter than others?
Cute things are usually small: While this is not a general rule, the small size of an animal makes it seem more helpless and therefore cuter.
They resemble infants: Cute things usually resemble babies indirectly by having small faces, large eyes, small noses and round facial features.
They are usually harmless and helpless: This is why we feel safe when we see them and this is also why we might empathize with them.
They appear innocent: This makes the desire to protect them even stronger for most people.
They seem clumsy and energized: Young animals haven’t perfected the traits of adults and often stumble as they learn and master their own skills. They have sporadic bursts of energy as they play and learn.
So will we always marvel at the young and cute? Well, yes because they will always ignite feelings of emotion and pleasure but ultimately those that are young and cute will grow into the iconic animals we view today, which serve a vital purpose and what make this interconnected environment what it is. If successful, these animals will birth new generations of the young and cute.
For now though, let’s simply enjoy some images of a few of the cute inhabitants of Londolozi: