The density of babies in one’s general proximity fluctuates throughout life. There are a lot of babies around when someone is themself a baby. There may be a lot of babies for the first few years of a person’s life if they have younger siblings. Then, in the mid-20s to mid-30s, baby frequency comes full force as age-matched peers acquire babies of their own. Babies then recur in old age, when the generation of babies a person saw in their 30s obtain their own babies.
I’m given to understand you can obtain babies at a reasonable price at most large-scale retailers
All in all, people see a lot of babies in their lives. So it’s a good thing babies are cute, because otherwise people would be tempted to take those puny, whiny, poopy, wriggling little leeches and send them all back to where they came from.
On the storks they rode in on
Why do we find babies cute, though? After all, they poop and vomit all over the place, they own an incomplete, sporadically-spaced set of teeth, and they shriek with the intensity of one-hundred thousand banshees at multiple intervals throughout the day.
Favorite times include at 3 am, during weddings, and while sitting behind you on a trans-oceanic flight
Why do we find them cute, then? Well, for one thing, we may literally have no choice, because it’s hard-wired in our brains. Now, calling something “hard-wired in our brain” is the journalistic equivalent to calling science “magic”, so let me elaborate. Babies are so cute that they trigger activity in brain region associated with emotion and pleasure, like the orbitofrontal cortex.
Which means this little guy literally manipulates your emotions beyond your control. How cute.
This first brain response gives way to slower, more sustained brain activity involved in caregiving and bonding, meaning that you will love that baby long after you get over how adorable he or she is. Meaning that deceptive little hellspawn has you well on your way to loving him or her forever at first sight. You have no chance.
He’s got you right where he wants you
The “hard-wiring” goes further than that, because it’s not just babies we like, we find anything that even looks like a baby cute. Think of everything people like about babies – big eyes, plush little cheeks, tiny nose and chin, cute little noises – and now think of every animal you would expect your grandmother would send you pictures of.
“A picture of a puppy and a kitten. Haven’t seen that on the internet a million times today. Thanks, Grandma”
Humans have evolved to prefer cute, “babyfaced” traits, possibly because preferences towards cute babies let those same babies grow up and have cute babies of their own, yet another way our genes have us do their bidding in their relentless quest for survival. Our “feels” for cuteness are so engrained that animators learned to prey on it long ago.
Just to seal your fate, even if you can resist all that cuteness, a baby can hit you with a high, ear-piercing shriek that also triggers the emotion regions of the brain, which explains why everyone hates the sound of a baby crying so, so much. Babies truly deploy a multi-faceted arsenal against your senses.
Who has the power to stand against such cuddliness?
So remember the next time you have an urge to scoop up a cute little baby into your arms and eat his little feet, that baby is evil. He’s using you. He’s attacking you, with his big eyes, and button noise, and soft little cheeks, and cute little giggles…and tiny little toes…and…and …
Who am I kidding? Babies are cutedorable!
“Another soul conquered”
Dan never understood how to throw out a baby with the bathwater; as they don’t fit down the drain. Contact him at info [at] scienceeverywhere.ca to see a topic covered here.