Chubby babies, meowing kittens, Hello Kitty in a lady’s skirt, and Pikachu in the movie “Detective Pikachu” released in 2019-this yellow mouse that has been popular around the world 20 years ago is once again affected Thousands of people follow, the above-mentioned people and things that make us smile when we see it, and sincerely sigh “so cute” are collectively called cute things. Almost everyone can’t resist their charm, so why do they have such a powerful magic?
Standard configuration of cute things
In 1943, the Austrian animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz summarized the characteristics of cute objects, namely “baby schema”: round eyes, fat cheeks, high brow bones, small chin, and small body with big head. At that time, there was no brain imaging technology. He summarized these laws by observing animals. He found that many mammals that require mothers’ care after birth, such as lions, sheep, and humans, all have round faces and round eyes when they are babies, and they will gradually lose their “baby fat” when they grow up. . In contrast, reptiles and most birds are born to live independently, such as crocodiles and ostriches. They are covered with scales or feathers at birth, and their appearance is not much different from that of adults. There is no “baby pattern”. .
Now that we have brain imaging technology, we can better understand why the appearance of cute things makes us feel cute. Morten Klingelbach, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, did an experiment to show subjects the faces of babies and adults, and then observed the brain activity of the subjects with brain imaging technology. They found that only one-seventh of a second after seeing the baby’s face, the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex was quickly activated. The orbitofrontal cortex is the cerebral cortex above the eye socket, responsible for decision-making and reward emotions. After activating this area, we will subconsciously focus our attention on the cute object, making us unable to remove our eyes, and the face of an adult does not have such an effect.
Another similar experiment conducted by the Klingelbach team also illustrates this point. They placed images of normal babies and babies with congenital cleft lip in front of the subjects. As a result, the time for the latter to activate the orbitofrontal cortex really increased. In other words, in the eyes of most people, babies with congenital cleft lip do not conform to the “baby schema”. Compared with normal babies, they appear less “cute” and harder to arouse people’s attention.
The charm of cute things
We admit that cute looks can really catch our sight and make us feel happy, but what’s the use?
Research shows that this has at least three effects. The first function is called “stimulating interaction”. When people see cute babies, even if they are not their own children, they will immediately want to tease them. They will laugh at their children and even make faces, expecting their children to laugh at them too. When encountering cute animals, people will have a strong desire to touch them, and even cannot help but want to feed them. Just as when we eat sweets, the brain releases dopamine to make us feel happy, so when we see cute things, the activated orbitofrontal cortex also secretes dopamine, which makes us want to be cute.
The second effect is what scientists call the Kamamuta effect. You may not have heard of this strange name, but you may often experience it. This word from the Indian language means “empathy”. What is empathy? For example, when you see a scene full of ruins and wailing after the earthquake on TV, will you feel sad? When you see the gray-haired relatives who have been separated for many years, finally reunited again, will you follow the tears in your eyes? You haven’t experienced it yourself, but you will feel empathy when you see similar scenes, and the corresponding emotions are called empathy, which is the Kamamuta effect. Camila Stanislas, a psychologist at Oslo Metropolitan University in Norway, discovered that cute things can also trigger the Kamamuta effect. They showed the subjects several videos of animals being hunted and killed. Some of the videos contained cute animals, such as rabbits and kittens, while other videos were less “cute” animals such as octopuses and eagles. See the previous one. More subjects were sad and tearful in the video.
The third effect can also be regarded as an extension of the Kamamuta effect. Cute things can inspire our empathy and make us more united. At present, many Internet and advertising design companies at home and abroad allow employees to bring their pet cats and dogs to the company, and some companies even use pets as mascots, such as Douban’s cat eggs and horse nest’s old parrot driver. The bosses found that after having pets in the office, employees’ anxiety due to work pressure has been significantly eased, and the atmosphere in the office has become more harmonious. This is because in the busy work time, playing with cute things for a while will make people have pleasant positive emotions. This positive emotion will be transmitted between employees, and the friction and estrangement between each other will be reduced.
First to stimulate interaction and then to arouse empathy, using their cute appearance, cute things can overcome the communication barriers and distrust walls between strangers in an instant, making people willingly “captured” by it, which can be described as ” Little social expert”.
The magic of cute things
If you think that cute things have only the above-mentioned effects, it is too small to look down upon them. Before you know it, they can empty your wallet and even take your life.
Many businesses will use cute things to quickly capture people’s hearts. For example, Disney’s classic cartoon image-Mickey Mouse, has gradually become “full” from the thin mouse image in the original “Steamboat Willie” released in 1928. Its limbs have become thicker, the proportion of its head to the body has become larger, and its eyes have become larger and rounder. Mickey Mouse is growing up in accordance with the “baby pattern”, and the “full” Mickey Mouse can attract people to spend money for it.
Logo of the villain of the Canadian gangster group
In addition, the characters in video games are often very cute or beautiful, and some casinos will make the gaming machine into a cute cartoon shape, which makes people indulge in it and invest a lot of money without knowing it.
In addition, some evil forces also use cute magic. In 2016, the Islamic State (ISIS), a terrorist organization known for videos of horrible torture and execution of hostages, launched a propaganda and recruitment campaign. In the video, armed fighters are holding cute kittens and want to use the power of cute things to weaken the organization. The image of atrocities and evil attracted more people to join the organization. The second largest gangster group in Canada, the villains, uses cartoon avatars as their logo. The old white-bearded man with a pistol and a big knife looks a bit like game characters at first glance, making it impossible to see their evil nature. These evil things dressed in “cute” cloaks are dark and sinful in nature. If we are deceived by their cute appearance, we will go on a crooked road and lose our lives. Therefore, we must keep our eyes open and recognize their essence.
There are many cute creatures in the world, they bring us a lot of joy, but at the same time, we must also pay attention to distinguish the cute creatures used by people with ulterior motives, and stay away from the devil hidden under the face of angels.