Does the phrase “that is so cute I want to squish it” ring familiar? The phenomenon actually has a scientific name – “cute aggression”.
Researchers at Yale investigated the phenomenon by giving participants bubble wrap and showing them a slideshow of cute animals photos mixed in with funny or neutral animal photos… well you can probably imagine what happened next. On average, people popped 120 for the cute pictures, 100 for neutral animal shots, and 80 for the humorous ones.
So why does the urge to squeeze something to death follow this cute and fuzzy experience? More research has lead scientists to believe that the secondary negative response could be attempting to counteract the out-of-control positive one. “Cute aggression” is similar to other paradoxical combinations of positive and negative emotions – like tears of joy – known as “dimorphous expressions”.
But why would our brains want to put a damper on this explosion of happiness? Scientists think the negative emotion is designed to “support the immediate well-being of the [participant].” Any extreme emotional spike requires a large amount of energy, so our brain’s attempt to regulate our emotions is to elicit the opposite reaction.
So next time you get the urge to crush a little kitten, you’re not crazy, it’s just your brain trying not to explode.
(Main image by julochka via Flickr)