The anatomy of cuteness

I’m a sucker for cuteness. Case in point: On my computer desktop is a photo of the prince of cute, my new grandson Blake. Every time “His Cuteness” comes up on my screen, I go “Awwww!” and touch his cute little nose.а

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Let’s get this straight. I’m not going soft in the head. I’m just as much the “don’t mess with me” person I ever was (well, nicer than that, I hope). It’s just that I can’t help myself. And probably, you can’t either – especially many of my Facebook friends. This, my gushy people, is evolutionary biology.

You can thank Austrian biologist Konrad Lorenz who, back in the late 1940s, came up with a theory that explains why even the most cynical of us melt into аpuddles when we see a small, cute, helpless baby. He called it kindchenschema, or the traits that make babies adorable and irresistible – large heads compared to body size, big eyes, button noses, chubby cheeks, and round and soft bodies.а They also capture our hearts with their fragility, helplessness, playfulness, curiosity, and innocence.а And, here’s the evolutionary biology part – this cuteness serves to bring out our nurturing, protective instincts to guarantee their survival as well as the survival of the species.

Here’s another take on the evolutionary possibility.а Jeffrey Kurland, a biological anthropology and human development scientist at Penn State University, posits that perhaps a distant female ancestor had a slightly different genetic makeup or simply had a different preference than her forebears that made her prefer babies with the cuteness factor. She took better care of her cute babies, who survived in larger numbers and who then passed on this preference to future generations. Over time, babies had no choice but to become cuter so they could get their share of attention.

Leave it to scientists to take the magic out of cuteness.

This preference has not been lost on the creators of commercials, dolls and cartoons, who exploit it for all they’re worth.а One of the all time favorite Super Bowl commercial series is the adorable e-Trade kid who never failed to crack me up. He’s now retired with a hefty portfolio.а (I know there are folks out there that found it creepy, but it made me laugh. Sorry.)

But nobody does cuteness with more intensity than the Japanese.а It brings to mind the outrageously popular doll Hello Kitty, a staple in Japan’s kawai (cuteness) popular culture. The craze is even more excessive in manga and anime cartoon characters that show cuteness taken to the extreme, according to Doug Hendrie on “The girls of anime and manga are cute. Really cute. Small noses, vast limpid eyes, large heads. So it’s no wonder that Japan’s legions of male otaku geeks are besotted with them – often to the point where real girls just don’t match up. It’s hard to compete with a cartoon (take a look), but Japanese girls give it a red-hot crack, making their voices higher and adopting a variety of cuteification techniques such as expert giggling and dressing like schoolgirls.”а Now that’s creepy.

Time out from all that creepiness. I’m ready for a dose of honest-to-god cuteness from the Prince of Cute himself.а Here goes.

Image 15

"Hey, people! Can we sit somewhere more comfy?"

Image 12

"This calls for drastic measures!"

"This should do it."


"Oh, yeah! That's much better."

Enough with the coos.

I can’t help it if I’m cute.

Hey, I'm just kidding.

ай Maya Leland 2014