Ever notice how when you’re holding an adorable animal, you might get the urge to smoosh and hug that extremely cute creature with all your might? Scientists say that "cute aggression" is a real thing — it's an adorable term for why you want to squeeze your pup. If you feel like your little fuzzy one is so cute you that you sometimes want to scream with overwhelming affection, that’s cute aggression.
But, according to new research published in Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience, cute aggression can actually mean that you’re a more caring person overall. While it might seem like a sort of odd psychological phenomenon, cute aggression is not about causing any sort of harm to said very cute creature. In fact, it might be signaling your innate caregiving response.
While cute aggression has been studied previously, the current study is the first to look at how cute aggression lines up with brain activity. Researchers from the Graduate School of Education at the University of California at Riverside say that cute aggression might be the brain’s way of mediating the caregiving response by keeping you from getting overwhelmed by it.
“Essentially, for people who tend to experience the feeling of not being able to take how cute something is, cute aggression happens,” lead study author Katherine Stavropoulos, PhD, a researcher in cognitive science and neuropsychology at the University of California, Riverside, said in a press release. “Our study seems to underscore the idea that cute aggression is the brain's way of 'bringing us back down' by mediating our feelings of being overwhelmed.”
This basically means that you can’t stand the cuteness, and your brain is working to balance out that response so that you can take care of your kiddo (either human or furry). In the study, researchers define cute aggression as “the urge that some people get to squeeze, crush, or bite cute things, albeit without any desire to cause harm.”
“We wanted participants to understand that these expressions of aggression are made in the absence of any intent to harm,” researchers said. “We thought that if participants believed the point of the research was to understand aggressive impulses made with the intent to harm the cute thing, we would not obtain accurate or representative responses.”
“When people were asked if they had ever said ‘it's so cute I want to squeeze it,’ about 64 percent said yes, and when asked if they had ever actually squeezed a cute animal, about 74 percent said yes,” Business Insider notes.
“It's definitely not a universal experience, which I find fascinating,” Stavropoulos told Business Insider. “When I describe the phenomenon to people, I usually see that about 70 to 75 percent of people nod immediately and know exactly what I'm describing and have experienced it. The other 25 to 30 percent look at me strangely and have no clue what I'm talking about or why anyone would feel that.”
If feeling incapacitated by cuteness seems like a sweet problem to have, well, it kind of is, especially when the cutie in question — whether canine, feline, or human — is your own.