Have you ever thought to yourself: 'Woah that baby is ugly?' I didn't think so!
My friend recently had a baby, and while meeting the new baby I repeated similar phrases of "aww, so cute, adorable, precious," etc. No one would argue that babies provoke a universal, joyful response.
What makes objects cute and desirable? Whether the size, color, or design, it seems that any object that takes us away from the average, mundane circumstance is classified as fun, and thus desirable. Am I the only one that can be motivated to do schoolwork by purchasing cool supplies?
I was intrigued to research what exactly made things cute and what effect cuteness has on individuals. Through my research I discovered that cuteness comes in multiple types, but they evoke different responses. One form of cuteness provokes a selfish response, while another encourages a care-taking emotion. Regardless of the reason for desire, the responses are biological and inherent in all humans.
Plenty of research exists to support that seeing a baby provokes biological response in humans with or without children. An article called "Viewing Cute Images Increases Behavioral Carefulness" supports "that tendency to respond emotionally to infantile physical features may promote the provision of care, especially to infants, who are otherwise helpless due to their physical and neural immaturity" (282). Humans instinctively want to help those who appear helpless, and therefore are seen as desirable - cute. This article suggests there is more to learn about the behavioral effect of helpless images, and presents studies I recommend viewing.
A really interesting article entitled "So Cute I Could eat it up," by Nenkov and Scott, argues that there are two kinds of cuteness that impacts consumer behavior: kindchenschema and whimsical cuteness. According to the article, cuteness refers to the "collection of cute features in newborns (e.g., bulging forehead, large eyes, rounded cheeks)" (326). Whimsical cuteness is the less discussed, "associated with capricious humor and playful disposition" (327). I found it interesting to discover that there are two distinctions of cuteness that elicit opposite responses in shoppers.
The same article presents studies to determine how the type of cuteness influences consumers. Amazon gift cards were compared, proving that when shoppers see kindchenschema objects associated with infancy, their caretaker, vulnerable instinct steps in and allows them to think of others before themselves (338). Various ice cream scoopers and staplers were presented to consumers to study the effect of whimsical cuteness. The out of the ordinary objects dominated because they activate the consumers "reward" center of the brain, thus provoking a more selfish, indulgent desire (338). We all have inherent need for reward and fun, which explains the psychological attraction to such objects. Like whimsical items provoke a selfish desire,I believe the talsmic items that Marovich presents in also represent the selfish desire of good luck and success, although natural.
The article by Nenkov and Scott suggest that people choose to indulge in whimsical products because they feel they deserve an escape from the reality of responsibilities (340). In other words, they become indulgent to reward themselves for performing so well in other aspects of life. We all have inherent need for reward and fun, which explains the psychological attraction to such objects. Like whimsical items provoke a selfish desire, I believe the talsmic items that Marovich presents in "The Powerful Authority of Cute Animals" also represent the selfish desire of good luck and success, although natural.
These responses that objects provoke are surely biological as they trace back to the feelings humans have been experiencing for as long as we have known. Interestingly enough, items that are both labeled as "cute" can have opposite effects. Next time you are in the store, ask yourself why you are attracted to a particular item. Is it for a selfish reason? Is it out of thought for another person? Until then, watch this super cute YouTube video!
Image and Video Credit:
Baby Photo: http://sleepy-bug.com
YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc