My auntie once looked at a photo of me from when I was around three – which had been posted on Facebook thanks to my mum – and commented, ‘Aww you could just cover him in jam and eat him xx’.
She wouldn’t ever have actually done that. It was an expression of adoration. The translation: ‘Aw isn’t he cute’.
We’ve all probably done it, whether it be with a newborn or a puppy. Looked at them and said: ‘They’re so cute I could just leather them!’
Well not quite that strong but along those lines. Why do we do it? Turns out there’s an explanation for being so overwhelmed by an animal’s cuteness you suddenly think of jokey violence.
It’s called ‘cute aggression’ and is quite prevalent among the world’s population. A study looked into the phenomenon.
Some people cry at graduations, at the birth of their children, when a hero returns from war, when they reach their goals, and when someone gives to another person unselfishly.
Some concertgoers scream as if in horror in the presence of their teen idol, and some people playfully growl and express their desire to pinch a baby’s cheeks.
What these diverse situations have in common is that these positive experiences have elicited dimorphous expressions—not only positive expressions, but also expressions normatively associated with negative emotions.
To give an example, a person who has won $100 million in a lottery and appraised this event as an incredibly good thing might feel overwhelmed with happiness and express this feeling by both smiling and crying.
Crying, which normatively expresses sadness, would seem to contradict the situation, the appraisal, and the positive emotions.
In short: we might joke about punching or eating a baby or animal that we find cute, to deal with the emotions of cuteness and not let it completely take over us.
Sounds a bit f*cked up that, doesn’t it? Why would finding stuff too cute be a bad thing? Is it healthy to want to hit things and be angry?
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