‘I just want to eat you up - leg rolls for dinner!’
If you’ve felt the urge to munch on your baby’s chubby arm like it’s corn on the cob, and thought, hey, that’s (slightly) cannibalistic, you’re not a monster. The urge to sink your teeth into adorable rolls or pinch squishy little cheeks isn’t weird or creepy (okay, it’s a bit creepy, but it’s also science). And there’s a name for it: cute aggression.
Social psychologist Oriana Aragón came up with that term after she saw (otherwise very normal) people gritting their teeth and clenching their fist in an almost violent response to cuteness. She did an experiment, asking her team at Yale to hold sheets of bubble wrap, while she flicked through a series of cute photos. And she found that the cuter the image (a kitten versus a cat), the more bubbles they popped, proving they really did feel a need to squeeeeeze.
But why? (Asked like every annoyingly curious five-year-old.) According to the New York Times, we can assume our extreme reaction to cuteness is “evolution’s way of making sure that parents do the relentless work of nurturing children”. We need to rock, sway, swaddle, shoosh and cuddle our babies for hours on end, so it makes sense that a natural urge to squeeze a really teeny (extremely needy) human is built into our emotions. Along with an urge to snack on their tiny toes!