On any given day, if you visit any of the popular social networking sites, you will find that pictures of cuteness gets the most views, likes and shares. The question is, why do people like cute things?
The popular opinion has always been that we are hardwired to respond favorably to cuteness. This makes sense on a surface value, as it’s probably a good reason why most parents are willing to put up with sleep loss and dirty diapers.
One study suggests that the faces of babies elicit motivation for care taking by humans. The study, conducted with a sample size of a 122 college students, had the students rate the level of cuteness in several baby photographs. The results indicated that the more cute the students found the babies to be, the more motivation they reported in wanting to take care of the babies.
In another study, the researchers indicated that when people viewed pictures they considered cute, it boosted their productivity level. The study consisted of three experiments, in which productivity levels where measured on fine motor tasks, non motor-visual tasks and in the third experiments participants where asked to locate numbers and letters from an arrangement of random and non random numbers and letters. The results of all three experiments showed that participants improved their scores on all three experiments shortly after viewing photographs of cute baby animals.
Perhaps like the first study indicated, that we are hard wired to take care of our young. Given that taking care of another human being full time, is tasking and sometimes emotionally draining, perhaps there are some hormones that get released in the brain when we stare at cute things, which make us become more focused and productive? Does this explain, why I suddenly decided to get into private practice after my son was born? Or why I unintentionally ran seven miles instead of my standard three in the morning, six hours after my daughter was born?
I do know this, the next time I find myself playing the role of a mediator in a custody battle between two parents with small children, I will inform both parents about these studies. It would probably help a protective mother to know that the father of her children is more likely to become more productive in providing for the children, if he spends equal time in co parenting them.
So perhaps if at work you ever get accused of being unproductive for looking at cute pictures on the Internet, you can tell them that you are recharging yourself.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.