When my youngest sister was a baby, I recall telling my mom through gritted teeth: “Ugh, she’s so cute, I can’t stand it. I just want to squeeze her!”

Years later, I still feel this overwhelming pull to squeeze adorable things: when my son belly-laughs, when my puppy rests his perfect little head on my lap or when I think about Baby Dory.

This burning desire to playfully squeeze, bite, pinch or growl at cute things — without any actual intention to harm — is called “cute aggression.” Social psychologist Oriana Aragón and her research team at Yale University gave this phenomenon its name. The term caught the media’s attention after it was presented at a 2013 conference, and it took off from there.

Lest you feel like some kind of weirdo for feeling this way, it turns out cute aggression is actually quite common. Aragón estimates that 50% to 60% of the population experiences it.

Cute aggression is an example of what researchers call “dimorphous expression” — when your internal feelings and the outward expression of those feelings seem to contradict one another. Other examples might include crying during joyful moments, like a wedding or the birth of a child, or laughing during an uncomfortable conversation.

Aragón and her Yale colleagues hypothesized that because dimorphous expression seems to occur when a person is overwhelmed with emotion, cute aggression could be a mechanism to help regulate these intense feelings. And they found some evidence to support that.

In their study, which was published in 2015, participants viewed photos of babies with more infantile features (digitally altered to have larger eyes and cheeks and smaller noses) and less infantile features (manipulated to have smaller eyes and cheeks and larger noses). Then they were asked to rate how strongly they agreed with statements such as “When I look at this baby, I feel like I am overwhelmed by very strong positive feelings”; “I feel like pinching those cheeks”; and “I feel like I want to take care of it.” Participants were also asked to gauge their emotional state before and after they were presented with the images.

Researchers found that the people who experienced feelings of cute aggression did “come down off the ‘cute high’ faster,” Aragón, now an assistant professor at Clemson University, told HuffPost. “They …….

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cute-aggression-squeeze-babies-puppies_l_61d5f463e4b061afe3ae3237

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