Ever wonder how this little person you created can instantly become a tiny dictator wielding enormous power? From singing and dancing their favourites in the supermarket – yes in public – to holding them for hours on end, there is very little we won’t do to keep our babies content. Now, a new study explains it is not our fault.
Oxford University Department of Psychiatry researchers have found babies come out cute to trigger our caregiving behaviours and ensure they “survive and thrive”.
Morten Kringelbach is one of six researchers involved in the study.
“Infants attract us through all our senses, which helps make cuteness one of the most basic and powerful forces shaping our behaviour,” Professor Kringelbach says.
Looking at previous studies on the affect cute infants and animals have on the brain, the team found cuteness corners a certain part of a parent’s brain, which ignites a fast response and locks in on areas in our minds where play, empathy, and quite possibly higher-order moral emotions live.”
Basically don’t let those big eyes and chubby cheeks fool you. Behind those gorgeous gurgling sounds and that immaculate soft skin is a specially designed biological weapon prepared to bring you to your knees, or make you sing Twinkle Little Star for the millionth time.
“This is the first evidence of its kind to show that cuteness helps infants to survive by eliciting caregiving, which cannot be reduced to simple, instinctual behaviours,” Professor Kringelbach says.
“Instead, caregiving involves a complex choreography of slow, careful, deliberate, and long-lasting prosocial behaviours, which ignite fundamental brain pleasure systems that are also engaged when eating food or listening to music, and always involve pleasant experiences.”
And, to all mums and dads, laughing and saying ‘those newborn days are behind me’, think again.
The study found cuteness affects both men and women, and even those without children – so, in a nutshell, we are all at the mercy of these infant warriors.
It is probably important to remember we were all once cute babies too, but spare a thought for the cuteness overload in the homes of families who just welcomed identical multiples.