Skip to main content

Why do you want to squeeze cute things? - Joshua Paul Dale


4,445 Questions Answered

TEDEd Animation

Let’s Begin…

Watching a kitten fumbling around, it might feel as if you’ve never encountered anything so devastatingly adorable in your mortal life. You may want to pet its soft fur and kiss its tiny head. But you may also feel the conflicting urge… to squeeze or smush the kitten, maybe even stuff it in your mouth. What is this peculiar phenomenon? Joshua Paul Dale explores the urge known as cute aggression.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Scientists have been researching our psychological and physiological responses to cute things for decades, but cuteness is also a booming cultural phenomenon. Twentieth-century cute icons from Mickey Mouse to Hello Kitty are now joined by baby Yoda and internet memes. The new academic field of Cute Studies investigates cuteness in both biology and culture. Specialists in this new field, including anthropologists, psychologists and even philosophers are interviewed in this CBC podcast

The hypothesis that we evolved to feel cuteness because human babies need a long period of nurturing and socialization may explain why the bar to perceiving it is set so low. The fact that we find many baby animals adorable as well as children, or that we can look at two dots and a curved line and see a cute smiley face, may indicate how valuable this response is terms of evolutionary survival. To delve more deeply into the role cuteness played in our evolutionary history and how it influences brain chemistry and behavior today, see this Discover Magazine article. 

What can cuteness do for you? Studies suggest that exposure to cute things triggers the brain to prepare for affiliative, social behaviors like smiling, nurturing, and playing. Furthermore, some data shows that feeling cuteness can increase empathy, boost mental focus, improve motor skills, and relieve stress and boredom in many people. Are you one of them? 

Next Section »

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Joshua Paul Dale
  • Director Oksana Kurmaz
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Oksana Kurmaz
  • Animator Oksana Kurmaz
  • Compositor Denys Chernysh
  • Art Director Oksana Kurmaz
  • Composer Jan Willem De With
  • Sound Designer Jan Willem De With
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

More from Getting Under Our Skin