“Cute-Aggression”: It’s a Thing

Don't you just want to squeeze it?Ever want to totally squish something cute, like a kitten or a baby or a chick? You're not the only one, according to a new study, which showed that the urge is a common response to things super adorable.

"They seem to bring out a strong excitement, and that may manifest in what could be called 'aggressive' behaviors," study co-author Oriana Aragón told Yahoo! Shine. "Aggressive is an awful word, though, because it doesn't capture what we're talking about. There doesn't appear to be a word in English that describes this."

Terminology aside ("cute-aggression" was the original suggestion, now being re-thought by the researchers), Aragón and co-author Rebecca Dyer did find something interesting: that looking at really cute images brought out aggro-type responses, both physically and verbally. They presented their findings to the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, held January 17-19 in New Orleans.

The duo, both psychology grad students at Yale University, had 109 subjects look at various images and record what the cute ones prompted them to say, and wound up with things like, "Grrrr!" and "I want to squeeze something!" Then they armed another group of 90 participants with sheets of bubble wrap and had them look at more images; lo and behold, the cutest ones prompted them to pop the most bubbles.

A particularly interesting factor, Aragón added, was that the effect proved true despite gender or age. "Most people would think that this exuberance for cute things would be a female thing, and I even thought that a bit," she said. "But data did not support any differences between men and women, young or old."

Aragón explained to Yahoo! Shine that watching a celebrity on a late-night talk show prompted the idea for the study. "She described someone that she loved, and her response was that she just wanted to squeeze her. I thought that was so odd," she recalled. She mentioned it to her dad, who likened it to grandmas pinching cheeks.

"That got me thinking-and as psychologists, one of our missions is to describe what we observe," Aragón said. So they set out to discover whether the cheek-pinching thing was real or exaggerated, or folklore. And, as it turns out, Nana's onto something.

But what about that other urge caused by severe cuteness: the one where you want to gobble it up?

"We have not tested the 'eat it up!' idea," Aragón said. "Though I would speculate that it could be similar."