Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Cuteness

How many more Mississippi rivers shall we review in the quest for a freedom from the human condition?

From the Wikipedia article on Cuteness:
Cuteness is usually characterized by (though not limited to) some combination of infant-like physical traits, especially small body size with a disproportionately large head, large eyes, a pleasantly fair, though not necessarily small nose, dimples, and round and softer body features. Infantile personality traits, such as playfulness, fragility, helplessness, curiosity, innocence, affectionate behavior and a need to be nurtured are also generally considered cute.

Konrad Lorenz argued in 1949 that infantile features triggered nurturing responses in adults and that this was an evolutionary adaptation which helped ensure that adults cared for their children, ultimately securing the survival of the species. As evidence, Lorenz noted that humans react more positively to animals that resemble infants—with big eyes, big heads, shortened noses, etc.—than to animals that do not.

That is, humans prefer animals which exhibit pedomorphosis. Pedomorphosis is the retention of child-like characteristics—such as big heads or large eyes—into adulthood. Thus, pedomorphosis and cuteness may explain the popularity of Giant Pandas and Koalas. The widely perceived cuteness of domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, may be due to the fact that humans selectively breed their pets for infant-like characteristics, including non-aggressive behavior and child-like appearance.

Some later scientific studies have provided further evidence for Lorenz's theory. For example, it has been shown that human adults react positively to infants who are stereotypically cute. Studies have also shown that responses to cuteness—and to facial attractiveness generally—seem to be similar across and within cultures.
I must add that I consider no river unworthy of a second look, of a more informed look, or of a more examined look. The above video's naughtiness and delight did not diminish for me because of my knowledge and awareness of the cuteness triggers. There is something else which happens (or rather, eventuates) as we grow up, in addition to our accumulation of knowledge, which is responsible for our jadedness, and which makes us bored, depressed and alienated.

Knowledge is not the curse which prevents innocence, as the Bible claims. Ignorance coexists with a blithesome naivete in a child, but to assume one causes the other is unjustified.

1 comment:

Di said...

My gawd Harmanjit, I never think like you. You take up a topic and go so very deep into it!!! Yeh blog mere upar say gaya (again) :(