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When Too Cute Is Too Much, the Brain Can Get Aggressive (npr.org)
277 points by daegloe 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 149 comments

Perhaps it's simply play drive, much like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6olQ-GGfCJE ("corgimorphization")

Cuteness makes us want to hug, tease and whirl around the little being (basically an adaptation for the offspring to be encouraged to test social boundaries, individual limitations, and explore how the world works), but if it's too small or fragile for that or just a picture on a screen, then one gets a little angry for not being allowed to do so (like seeing delicious food and not being allowed to eat it). At the same time one is primed for playful action (biting, pinching, squeezing), so anger already is nearby in the space of emotions. This might also be aggravated between different species as the reactions might not match the expectations.

I buy the "overwhelmed by positive emotion" explanation. As a parent I've seen this in my daughters, specially in the first years. They would hugh you strongly and in ocassions even bite. I've always understood this as some emotional overflow with no harm intended. Which makes sense, since managing emotions is not easy for toddlers.

My kids have done the same thing! It's like an extension of them nuzzling into you, and then they're not just rubbing their head into your should, they're gnawing on it a bit too. I think you're right and it's just they don't have other outlets for what is essentially a joyful emotion, and they certainly don't know "biting = hurt = bad"

i feel a similar aggression for parents that fawn over their cute pets or their cute kids.

That is completely not what this is about, but your comment made me laugh.

There are adult activities during which intense emotions can manifest in stronger (not harmful) physical responses.

There is something similar to me about the satisfaction of hunger and the satisfaction of sexual desire. There is something genuinely destructive about the former and much that can mimic violence in the latter. Sometimes, I've seen people say, "Oh you are so cute, I could just eat you up!" then follow this up with a barrage of kisses and hugs. As I remember it, usually, they're older women. Sometimes I feel this way about my wife, who is naturally very, very cute. Sometimes, I really feel the urge to leave her feeling bedraggled with an excess of attention and affection.

In Indonesia there is a word for this aggression (Gregetan). Is there a word for this type of aggression in english?

I don't know if this official or publicly traded knowledge but I believe it's, "Put that toddler on Adderall / Ritalin!"

This is acurate. Sadly so.

I have had three daughters who exhibit what was stated above about super hugs, clenching teeth with saying "i just looove you soooo much" and shaking....

I was aware of this as a positive thing forever. And its lovely as encouraging them to be emotionally engaged with the world is important part of existing.

I threatened to disown my parents when they were deciding to put my younger brother on ritalin when he was a child because they were being told he was hyper, adhd, etc. i told them they needed to stand up to bullshit medicating of him just because teachers said whatever... (no need to go into details, but the schools and teachers in the late 80s were victims of pharma snake oil bullshit, which is why i havent taken even as much as an aspirin or advil in 20 years)...

Children need to thrive, engage, be encouraged to explore all aspects of life, but we have architected our entire society to supress the natural human condition.

But ironically, as a cyberpunk nerd of the 80s i somehow thought that smart drugs and neurotropic enhancement agents were going to be the future hotness. Where is my damn eye implant?

EspeciLly in school where ADHD is overdiagnosed when the real problem is an environment with hardly any physical play and mostly sitting quietly for 7-8 hours.

I had a debate with someone where I argued that adderall and others are basically methamphetamines, one atom away from cocaine. Am I right?

Cocaine is a substantially different molecule, but yes, Adderal is amphetamine, and methamphetamine is effectively just an extra carbon atom (along with the extra hydrogens that go with it).

Arguably meth would be the better treatment...

> arguably meth would be the better treatment

It's available but pricey and not available in a variety of dosages.

See, desoxyn

Ah man. That's wild. Mind me asking how old you were when your brother was getting that treatment and you rebelled? Or at least how big of an age gap there was between you? My brother and I are very close in age so I wouldn't have been able to make that informed of a decision if the same happened to him (I'd have been too young to argue my stance in any coherent manner).

That said: I'm waiting for my neurotropics and cybernetic implants as well...

We have expressions like "I love you so much, I could just eat you up." The term "rough housing" may be the closest we get, but I don't think it's generally understood to be associated with cute aggression.

There's also the trope "I'll hug him and squeeze him and rub his fur backwards and call him George" which is a reference to an old Bugs Bunny cartoon.


Related: The Spanish have a word for this.


   a reference to an old Bugs Bunny cartoon
Which, in turn, was a reference to Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men".

Which is a book where a character kept killing cute things by being too aggressive with them...

Speaking as someone with an average vocabulary: Not that I can think of.

After a quick look it seems as though it's known that some non-English languages do include singular words for this, but in English it's called "cute aggression", "playful aggression", or similar terms.

The word "ecstasy" means overwhelming joy, but also means you are frenzied and out of control.

There is in Thai. หมั่นเขี้ยว means wanting to bite someone/something because it is so cute.

"roughhousing" is the word for this in English.

No, really. In English one meaning of the word "roughhousing" is this experience. If you ever have done this with children or with your parents as a kid, this play fighting/wrestling which is called "roughhousing", you know that the feeling is what is being described here. Puppies and dogs have very similar behavior and people can even roughhouse with their dogs and they love it. Roughhousing has definitely gone out of favor in current mainstream child raising circles, but some people think it is a good idea[1].


6. Roughhousing brings joy.

As a species, humans are hard-wired for roughhousing, so the body and mind are happy when we let it happen. According to studies in neuroscience, when the play circuits in the brains of mammals are activated, they feel joy.

> As a species, humans are hard-wired for roughhousing, so the body and mind are happy when we let it happen.

We may not, as a species, need to roughhouse as children anymore in the same way lions and tigers do since we no longer need to hunt or rely on our physical attack prowess to secure nourishment but we are definitely still hard wired to get joy and positive reinforcement from such behavior. Working with kids for any amount of time makes this all starkly clear.

Heck... Even being around drunk people enough makes it clear, haha!

love and stomach are next door neighbors

"Its 3am what the heck are you doing up/down there!?!?"

-- "Just trying to get something to eat, honey!"

> They would hugh you strongly and in ocations even bite

Double check they aren't cats.

Yep. I have a cat who only bites when he's angry, and another one who only bites when she's happy. Between the two of them, my arms look like I'm a heroin addict.

Breed the two to get to aggression neutral?

Or they just bite all the time.

Yeah... I guess I didn't think through all the edge cases on that.

Breed the two of them to bite you whenever you move.

Please don't post funny jokes on HN.

I feel like nobody is offering the obvious evolutionary explanation: you certainly don’t gain anything by wanting to kill/eat human babies, but it’s a completely rational impulse to want to kill/eat baby squirrels or rabbits or deer or any other thing a human hunter-gatherer might run into. “Cute” in this case means “defenseless”, which means “a free meal.”

> you certainly don’t gain anything by wanting to kill/eat human babies

Actually, this is exactly what gorillas do. When there is a new alpha male, he will go and systematically kill all the baby gorillas who are still nursing. Why? So he can impregnate the mothers of these gorillas who are unable to reproduce while they are nursing. While human females can get pregnant while nursing a baby, they are less fertile during the first few months of breastfeeding.

Now I'm not saying this the reason why some people have this impulse. Just thought I'd share some interesting info with you. Happy new year!

Edit: I am not an expert on gorillas, just something I have recalled from reading Robert Sapolskys book, "Behave". I'm sure there is some nuance to this infanticidal behavior of gorillas which I have misrepresented. Apologies in advance to the primatologists who read my comment.

This is true of cats too. Stray mother cats will keep moving her kittens because tomcats would seek out lactating mother cats, but will first kill the kittens before mating with her. Nature is brutal.

Also in a way, the tomcat is making sure that his kittens won’t have to share resources with kittens from a different litter.

P.S: that’s a great book by Sapolsky. I read it fully and just last night, I went back to it for light selective browsing. Very well written. Thanks for mentioning it.

You shouldn't lose complete confidence like that just because of some superficial disagreement. History is filled with examples of groups being very wrong.

Ah, I wouldn't say I've lost complete confidence in my statement. Just wanted to add a disclaimer in case I didn't fully remember the details correctly (perhaps it isn't all gorillas, just certain species of gorillas. Perhaps the female gorillas aren't entirely infertile, just significantly less so. Etc), as I don't have the book handy to validate.

Well no, because if you regularly snack on immature prey you risk a future shortage of adult prey that can feed you for longer when the seasons change. In agriculture harvesting of livestock aims to balance supply and demand as consistently as possible, while in nature population sizes tend to demonstrate chaotic/hysterical behavior as a function of species' maturity cycles.

Animals in the wild are generally unable to plan ahead and let fruit ripen optimally since if demand is high enough, the only result will be another animal coming along to eat it first.

Also, it's well known that predators prey not just on old and sick individuals but also the young. Predators don't plan ahead, they eat whatever is available and accessible.

All true, but recall that attacking infant animals tends to be riskier, and that these pressures operate at the population rather than individual level. A population that's too good at targeting baby prey will go hungry later, all other things being equal.

maybe that is why, even when experienced, the least, certainly no whole population, do act on a cute aggression impulse?

No, because this has nothing to do with the desire to kill or harm. It actually invokes a desire to protect. It is motivated by the overwhelming adoration, if you will, for what is cute. The intensity is not "aggression" in the sense you or others seems to be thinking of. By analogy, think of two people who have not seen each other for a while, miss each other dearly, and meet one another. The hugs and physical expressions of affection are going to be more intense. I think this is similar. It is an experience of overwhelming joy.

The study seems to use pictures of humans: babies, adults, some of them manipulated for more/less cuteness.

It doesn't really need an evolutionary explanation. What is obvious is that babies and adults somehow coevolved in order to ensure that helpless babies are probably taken care of. But that mechanism doesn't have to be perfect. If a consequence is a few overly cute babies get hurt by a few overly sensitive adults, is not a really big deal.

Now you need to gather evidence to support your hypothesis.


"Obvious evolutionary explanations" by laymen tend to be just-so stories.

This comment adds nothing to the discussion. Instead please explain why you think it's not a potentially valid explanation instead of just attacking the OP for being a laymen(something you didn't verify).

I invite you to apply critical thinking as to why someone's declaration of the OMG obvious evolutionary explanation for a still dimly-understood psychological phenomenon is fundamentally dubious. Tossed-off evo-psych ideas like that are the playground of laymen geeks when it comes to biology. They contribute nothing except a false sense of understanding.

So do the "obvious evolutionary explanations" by so-called experts, by the way. A useful exercise is to consider how you could possibly have an evolutionary explanation that is NOT a just-so story. It seems impossible to me; there is really nothing in our epistemology to justify our stories about evolution besides inductive inference, a.k.a a just-so story.

You could look at what the explanation predicts about the populations involved and their effect on the fossil record.

I'm not saying this is always done, but rather it shows such theories are falsifiable in the sense of Popper.

This is in fact rarely done; the fossil record is sparse. In general data on the evolutionary background is sparse.

Let's take an example I have been contemplating lately: pruny fingers. When my baby goes in the water, his fingerpads and toes turn wrinkly. There is a supposition, part of the "Aquatic Ape Theory" that is a famous example of an evolutionary just-so story, that this is an adaptation to allow better grips in the water. Sounds good to me - but how could we test this claim?

We could start with physical tests (does grip actually improve when your fingers are pruney?), but we immediately run into trouble. A grip on what? In what sort of conditions? Did these conditions exist in the adaptive context that produced this phenotype? We have no idea.

There might be rare circumstances where we can observe the coincidence of environmental and phenotypic isolation (e.g. cattle herders who are lactase persistent), but the vast majority of features will be lost against the general evolutionary background of our species (e.g. everything separating humand from chimps, both genetically and environmentally, is one confused ball). But even those rare cases are still inferential; the inference seems strong and parsimonious, but its still, at the end, "just so". We can never prove causality.

I would think if the story holds across all cultures over time, it is pretty good evidence it is not just a just-so story.

Maybe, or maybe you just insufficiently observed the variability across cultures or time, or ignored it, or pretended the outliers don't contradict your cherished thesis, or pretended your sample set is more representative than it is, etc., etc. Anyway "pretty good" evidence seems about the right standard for something to be labeled a just-so story.

Consensus is the best you can ask for with evolutionary stories. There is no equivalent of a mathematical proof in that field. Do you think we shouldn't bother with this field of study at all since we cannot definitively prove something?

In a world where the worst sort of racist dogmas proceed from exactly this sort of reasoning, and where natural selection is often made to stand in the place of God ("the fittest survive"), maybe we should.

Well, I was going to make a comment that this sort of "just so story" logic is prevalent amongst those who are anti-evolution (e.g. creationists) and would rather see the idea die, but it seems I do not need to.

Haha.. Nope, I'm not a creationist. I do have a Phd mostly earned studying evolutionary biology, though (sequence conservation). Thats why I detest this form of logic so, I understand better than most how limited our insight into adaptive cause is. When I started grad school I imagined I would be able to explain all of what made humans special by examining human-chimp divergence. It didn't take too long to disabuse me of that notion.

If I'm not mistaken, just-so stories were Lamarckian explanations, while OP's seems like a Darwinian one.

It's very easy to craft evolutionary just-so stories. That's why you need to look out for it.

But this is actually not a just-so story. It's a Darwinian hypothesis. OP needs to gather evidence if they want to prove their theory.

Said another way: A single Lamarckian example of evolution has yet to be proven, so they can perhaps be dismissed with a degree of confidence. OP's hypothesis is not Lamarckian.

A Darwinian just-so story may well be worse than a Lamarckian one. The latter might be immediately falsifiable while the former might be "not even wrong."

(Ugh. I just did a search for "Just So stories," only to discover that the anti-evolutionists have latched onto that term!)

>I just did a search for "Just So stories," only to discover that the anti-evolutionists have latched onto that term!

Well, that is my point. They are not evolutionary theories. Despite this being ultra downvoted, my pointing out the use of the term "just-so stories" is incorrect here seems to clearly be something you are even realizing while in the same breath disagreeing.

You seem painfully unaware that separating "just so stories" from worthy, testable hypotheses is actually a significant part of the process of coming up with a theory in evolutionary biology.

My argument is not even about the process of teasing out a testable hypothesis. What I said is that the phrase, "just-so stories" is misused here. You even discovered that yourself when you did a Google search on this phrase, as is evident from your last post. And your subsequently combative, insulting attitude in response to this development reflects poorly on your character.

What I said is that the phrase, "just-so stories" is misused here. You even discovered that yourself when you did a Google search on this phrase, as is evident from your last post.

My Google discovery has almost no bearing on the point I and everyone else trying to clue you in on this thread was making. So your response is actually a datapoint against you here.

Your responses come across not as explanatory or cooperative, but as having a combative and unproductive attitude

Anyways, whether you like to admit it or not, your Google discovery was 100% literally what my argument here is.

I have no ability to get you to change your tone or reevaluate this thread, even after you typed out the discovery yourself, showing that neither did you read my argument, let alone try to understand it. What I said was exactly what your Google discovery was.

There's not really anything else to say here. My argument was plain and simple. Just-so stories are Lamarckian theories that are not substantiated by evolutionary biology.

Since I'm already repeating myself, I'm going to stop responding now.

But I'm glad at least you learned something: exactly the point I was trying to make in the first place.

Your responses come across not as explanatory or cooperative, but as having a combative and unproductive attitude

Here's the thing. Your point seems to be that a "Just so story" is necessarily Lamarckian. In about a half dozen comments, people have been trying to disabuse you of this notion. Something that structurally and thematically resembles a "Just so story" could be written in a Rudyard Kipling Christian framework, a Jedi framework, or a Carl Sagan Cosmos framework. None of that matters.

Just-so stories are Lamarckian theories that are not substantiated by evolutionary biology.

So your theory is that, "Just-so stories are Lamarckian theories that are not substantiated by evolutionary biology." How could this theory be falsified? One way a careful scientist would try, would be to compose a just-so story entirely with Darwinian natural selection as a framework. Another way, would be to formulate a theory in terms of Darwinian evolutionary biology which no one knows how to falsify. There are countless examples of the above formulated by researchers in evolutionary biology all the time. They are as countless as failed ideas, because that is pretty much what they are.

For your point to stand, it has to deny the existence of the above.

But I'm glad at least you learned something: exactly the point I was trying to make in the first place.

Learning that makes me question whether you understand Darwinian evolution in the first place.

Look at you trying to save face, even willing to insult my intelligence to do so. In fact, nothing is complicated here. You just didnt know the meaning of "just-so" stories and refus to accept that you were wrong about that, even after you typed it out yourself. The funny thing is in the irony when you typed that point out yourself, it still managed to go over your head that: the phrase was misused, and that fact was my only point I was trying to make here.

This would make anyone question your own intelligence, not other's!

Have a good day. I'm not going to keep repeating myself or continue to interact with someone who has bad faith.

Look at you trying to save face, even willing to insult my intelligence to do so. In fact, nothing is complicated here. You just didnt know the meaning of "just-so" stories and refus to accept that you were wrong about that

Whoa, no. Now you really sound like the typical anti-evolutionist troller. Go and listen to some of Bret Weinstein's lectures or YouTube videos. "just so stories" in an evolutionary biology context are precisely failed theories in evolutionary biology, and they can be Darwinian just as they can be Lamarckian or Rostaferian.

the phrase was misused

Basically, you were misapplying the phrase as used in a different context in the evolutionary biology context, which you yourself evoked by mentioning Lamarckianism.

Have a good day. I'm not going to keep repeating myself or continue to interact with someone who has bad faith.

I'm confident that 3rd party readers can tell the difference. I suspect you can correlate that with the sheer number of other people trying to disabuse you of the same notion.

A Darwinian just-so story is still a just-so story.

What I was trying to say is that just-so stories are not consistent with modern evolutionary biology. They are in fact Lamarckian. They are by definition, not Darwinian. The phrase here is not being used correctly in this thread.

What I was trying to say is that just-so stories are not consistent with modern evolutionary biology. They are in fact Lamarckian.

Now you're dissecting exactly what your position is, which is to your credit. However, you're also exposing the exact nature of your misconception quite starkly as well.

"Just-so stories," as used by the evolutionary biology community, can indeed be written entirely in an Darwinian evolutionary framework. All you have to do is to craft an evolutionary theory which is not currently falsifiable. Here's one. An explanation for why human babies have an unconscious proclivity for sticking things in their mouths. Infant mortality in non-technological human societies is rather high. This gives them an optimal emergent function as unwitting food tasters for their family and society. Infants represent a good cost/benefit as food tasters, since they contain almost no cultural investment in learning and knowledge, and represent a relatively small group investment in food and other resources given to them in their short lives, so if they should die, there are far fewer resources lost.

This theory is entirely Darwinian. It's a behavioral trait which can plausibly be passed down to descendants, and the mechanism for the increase of this trait is through the reproductive advantage which accrues to individuals living in groups which can discover edible foods and poisons for the least cost.

(Now, I can only imagine that you're going to try and spin what I've just said by imputing intention to entities in the theory, or some misunderstanding of evolutionary mechanisms of altruism. The persistence with which you don't understand that which is told to you resembles that of anti-evolutionists.)

OP's hypothesis isn't even falsifiable. It's just an idea.

Relevant Key and Peele skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6iC0Vi1yEg

This isn’t unlike..”these are tears of joy. I am SO happy that I am shedding tears”. Same phenomenon.

The one about ‘tears of joy’ is something I chased down the rabbit hole. It has to do with lachrimal glands which are basically our tear ducts. Turns out each ‘type’ of tears has an unique signature. And it’s prettt distinct and recognizable under a microscope.

They are connected to fight/flight impulse ..our adrenals..cortisol levels or stress situation. One can cry from relief post-stress or from sadness or from joy. Or from pain after stubbing a toe or cutting oneself. And they are all different.

More here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-microscopi...

So..I want to say that this expression of seeming violence after seeing something cute can be traced back to the same pathways.

I'm curious as to how gender and testosterone levels correlate with this. It appears that this dichotomy isn't limited to aggression, but to more emotions [0].

This article looks informative about the topic [1]. It poses the question of how disorders such as conduct disorder might affect this. That'd be a really good question to answer.

[0] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095679761456104...

[1] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.0030...

Apparently in the underlying paper they did a chi-squared test on gender and didn't see a significant difference (so also didn't report the raw data), this was surprising since I've only really seen something like this aggression affect in women and everyone's anecdotes seem to be of women. (Or maybe I'm just overly separating the desire to "tightly hug" and "squeeze until they burst".) Would be interesting to get a sample of male anime fans and their reactions to cute anime girls and see if the distribution is normal.

Reminded of Agnes from Despicable Me when I read this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SI6rhotAkE

I was reminded of Lonesome Lenny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZi-Ilcr47Q

I'm pretty sure this is just a subset of Intrusive Thoughts (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrusive_thought) which affect all people equally.

I have minor Tourette syndrome and the compulsion to twitch is a very similar feeling to cute aggression. I also have intrusive thoughts. They are probably all related.

I've heard that when people are afraid of heights, when they come close to the edge of a bridge or a building they feel irresistsble desire to jump. I wonder if these two are related.

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss -- we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness and dizziness and horror become merged in a cloud of unnamable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice's edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. And this fall -- this rushing annihilation -- for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination -- for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it.

In The Imp of the Perverse by E.A. Poe.

Thanks! I'd heard this phenomenon referred to as "the imp of the perverse" but I didn't know the source.

I've always thought it was some mental phenomenon where any sufficiently strong result ('don't jump') automatically comes with a weak inverse result ('jump!'). Never figured out whether it was some kind of mental self-check mechanism to catch strongly held false beliefs, or whether it's just a quirk of the way nerves work (sort of like a mental after-image), but I definitely get it. (And it's not just about jumping personally, if I'm standing holding a laptop near a long drop I'll feel a shadow of an urge to hurl it off... it's really weird.)

As far as I experience it, it's not the irresistible desire to jump by itself, but the idea of having an action at hand that would be the last action one would ever take--without having any recourse after it has been taken, and the fear that one might unconsciously or whimsically set into motion that action before being able to analyse it rationally.

It's the same fear as standing on a platform where a high-speed train passes by.

As I see it it's the fear of the small gap between realizing and rationalizing where there's a guarantee that the rationalization will not occur or be futile and irreversible.

Conjecture, but I believe this is due to disordered preference for orienting oneself perpendicular to converging lines. Imagine yourself standing on a long straight road. Now imagine yourself looking over the side of a building, which is equivalent to looking along a similarly flat surface but from a much reduced height, as if you were lying on the road and trying to look at it over the tops of your feet.

A maladaptive orientation instinct might be caused by overcompensation for astigmatism or other distortion, or a strong preference for one kind of visual cue (converging parallels) over another (the more abstract knowledge of gravity and the associated impacts.

There is some evidence to suggest that premature babies are more likely to be subject to such disorders. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_cliff

The problem is that l'appel du vide does not just apply to jumping off a cliff. It tends to pop up in situations where somebody could take a very simple yet extremely dangerous or guaranteed life-ending action. The other common case of l'appel du vide is the thought of just letting the car swerve into a tree or pole.

I know, but I don't think that is the only factor in play. You could have vertigo without ever having the inclination to step in front of a train.

If that were the case then it wouldn't also result in, say, fantasizing about swerving off a straight road into a tree.

I feel a pull, so my reaction is to retreat rather than jump. Paradoxically, the desire to jump results in placing myself at a safer distance.

I'm scared of heights. When I get to the edge of something like that I don't necessarily want to jump but I do tend to try and picture in detail what would happen if I did...

Though I fell off a cliff as a child and don't really want to do it again. This could be why I don't get any strong desire to jump. Been there done that, wasn't very fun.

I'm scared of heights, and I have no such desire. I do, as a sibling commenter said, have unwanted visualizations of falling, etc. All super irrational, I'm aware, but trying telling that to me while I'm wide-eyed and white-knuckled at the edge of a building.

Couldn't help thinking of Bambi meets Godzilla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-wUdetAAlY

Wow, there's a good Youtube comment in that thread:

I remember meeting Mr. Newland in BC back in 2007 where he explained that this was made in the last minutes for his final project in animation school. He ran out of time helping his fellow classmates with their projects and had nothing to make. That's why this has no colour. It had to be 1 minute 30 seconds long so he lengthened the movie with text and nail movement. Thinking nothing of it, he passed his class, and this was submitted and won an animation award.

Absolute classic, I came here to post that very thing.

But those people wouldn't really take a swipe at Bambi or Thumper, she says.

You know, I've noticed that I sometimes laugh when I hear about horrible news. I've never understood why - since there is nothing funny or laughable about those bad things. I wonder if this is related?

My wife does this too. It's a horrible source of embarrassment because it evokes laughter at highly inappropriate times (such as the delivery of terrible news, such as death of a loved one).

My daughter also does it. When she's in big trouble and mom and I are very mad, she will often laugh at our anger, despite knowing that it will escalate the situation. It took us a little while to realize what was happening, and that she wasn't trying to be a punk.

I do that too, really upsets my wife when I just can't help but laugh when I have angered her. I have taken to apologizing while laughing and saying that I acknowledge my response is inappropriate, but I can't help it. Helps sometimes.

Laughter is an expression of fear. I know that sounds silly, but go watch some videos of chimps laughing and pay attention to what's going on while they're doing it.

I feel as if this is just a trend in the way people communicate. It's common in the U.S. to describe cute animals and babies this way. It might've stemmed from pop culture (i.e. movies, TV shows).

I remember there was a commedian who said "you ever see a kitten so cute, you just want to strangle it death?" or something to that effect. The audience seemed to relate.

I think it was Sarah Millican who said that. Her sketch is here (NSFW due to language) - https://www.facebook.com/BritishComedy/videos/sarah-millican...

It wasn't. I think it was Bill Burr or Louis C.K. Some sort of short, fat, bald comedian, I guess. I get them all mixed up. And it could have been a kitten instead of a baby. But I remember it because, yes, I have felt a bit like Lenny from Mice and Men and wanted to cuddle a cute thing too violently.

This so much! It only happens when I play with really young kittens, but I find myself handling then rougher and rougher and I just need to stop playin because I get the feeling "I'm going to strangle this thing because it's too cute!".

I have cute aggression. I learned about that in https://priceonomics.com/why-do-we-smother-cute-things/ which was published in 2014. So why does this article say Yale researchers first describe it in 2015?

The article says they first presented in 2013.

we call this "gigil" in the philippines http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170714-an-untranslatable-...

There’s a similar effect mostly experienced by women: they want to eat babies. Not really — there’s no danger — but the idea pops into the head. My wife had our daughter seven weeks ago and noticed it, we’ve had friends say things from the common, “I want to eat you up” to an outright faux aggressive “I WANT TO EAT HER” from one of her friends. Some articles claim it has something to do with the way they smell. https://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0923/Why-do-people-wa...

This is normal behavior among my family. I've always been like this. I also know many people like this. Very odd to hear people needing to vouch that it's real.

I'm the opposite. In fact I'm so opposite that I grew up assuming that the majority of the people on earth are more like me than like you.

A study such as this definitely makes me suspect that I may be the the minority? Who knows?

Cuteness as an emotion has never overwhelmed me. Cute is pleasant to me like a pleasant color or my favorite geometric shape. I recognize cute but I can't relate to being completely overwhelmed. Most of the time I ignore it.

Same here. I always thought the "so cute I just want to strangle it to death" thing was just a funny expression. I'm sort of mind blown right now.

It's best not to take your own experiences with acceptance about literally any matter whatsoever and use it as a lens to fathom what it's like for other people.

The problem is that plenty of people flat out don't believe a behavior exists when it clearly does, just because they themselves don't experience it or behave that way. It happens so incredibly often - like people who think it's normal to have to sneeze when they go out under the sun and others who then need incontrovertible proof that this happens. I'm not sure what to call it. A lack of empathy or imagination? Lack of respect for different experiential points of view?

Most people are suprisingly callous to anything that doesn't directly affect them. While some is inavoidable, much is just taught as 'common-sense selfishness'. Common in china, and becoming common in the usa. 'CYA', Look out for #1, Pay yourself first, are all good advice but also self-serving to a fault. We here on HN are certainly only rarely exceptions to this. We just hyperfocus on our domain and wonder how 'everyone else' can't see whats obvious to us.

You've over-analyzed my comment, maybe making a similar mistake as what you're warning me against.

> It's best not to take your own experiences with acceptance about literally any matter whatsoever

This sounds really weird to me. If not my experiences, then what, really?

The key point was not to project your own experiences and perspectives onto other people who haven't had the same experiences, and consequently hold different perspectives, i.e., the second half of the OP's sentence which you elided from your quotation.

I frequently remark on how cuteness is treated differently in different cultures, and I really wonder if it plays a role in how cute aggression affects people.

Anecdata - the thing is real.

I consider myself to be a well adjusted person, but I have a confession to make.

Whenever I find myself i a toy store in a 'too cute' section, I feel tension to grow inside me. I have a compulsion to arrange toys in sexual-situation-resembling poses, stage simulated toy-crashes or break the cute atmosphere in similar a way.

> I have a compulsion to arrange toys in sexual-situation-resembling poses, stage simulated toy-crashes or break the cute atmosphere in similar a way

Why must this be a compulsion? If you had something else to do at the time, would you be unable to do it without first re-arranging the toys? If not, it strikes me as normal self-amusement/play more than anything else.

I mean isn't it kind of normal? I've wandered across many a random sand-penises sculpted on the beach, and come across campsites having crude stickmen with oversize penises. And of course, everyone has heard countless sexualized jokes in their life.

I think the OP has some confirmation bias going on. Taking the conclusion and using it to narrate his/her behavior. Unless OP only does that as a response to cuteness stimuli, but the crass behavior seems normally present in people without cute stimuli.

"I feel tension to grow inside me" suggests the impulse cause OP discomfort or anxiety until resolved, and OP seems fully aware that the juxtaposition of sexuality or mortality with cute children's toys is considered inappropriate because of the potential to create distress for children who encounter it.

OP, if this is an unpleasant compulsion rather than an occasional whim you might want to dig into it with a therapist, either in search of a cause or a coping strategy as you prefer.

Yea you are right, come to think of it, the most important thing here is, as you said, if this is specific to children's toys OP really should seek professional help.

I bet future machine consciousness learning will result on machines thinking we’re so cute they’ll destroy us

I think this can be a learned response as a self defense against the constant barrage of “cuteness” we encounter through marketing. When you see it as manipulative it’s easy to see why you might get angry.

I know I have the same reaction to all of the lullaby music in commercials.

Article isn't about getting angry. And it's not necessarily about volume of cuteness, but rather intensity of a singular moment of cuteness. When my wife hugs our cat and he's being all cat cute like, she'll remark how she wants to squeeze the life out of him because she just can't stand how cute he is. I feel like that's rather common, and has no tie to anger or actual physical aggression.

The article is about over stimulation of the emotion and reward systems of the brain and how negative thoughts can help neutralize that over stimulation. I'm suggesting that same pattern may be represented by a self learned behavior that's adapted to being overexposed to cuteness.

hah, this is so true, I've never given much thought as to why its happening, but I have got a newborn about a month old, he's very cute that when he with me and wife is not around, I try to bite or squeeze him :)

dalmu1 3 months ago [flagged]


I said something similar to a girlfriend once. She didn't take it too well...

I don't like kittens because I feel like they are too qute and I feel like strangling them -- I thought I was insane, phew, glad I'm not.

I've never had that trait, but I suspect it is caused by a resentful feeling of being treated like an infant.

Nah it's not like that at all.

My girlfriend does this all the time. She sees puppies and shit like that on Reddit, and always does this like "growl" and says how she wants to "squeeze the shit out of them." It's not like she really wants to squeeze them and kill them, and it's not actually anger.

It's just a really intense feeling of joy and wanting to take care of them and play with them. If there's any true aggression there, I feel like it's a result of being protective. It's probably a very biological reaction to seeing a small cute creature or person who needs care.

It seems likely to me that it's an expression of L'appel du Vide, or The Call of the Void. You ever stand at the edge of a tall building or bridge and feel the urge to jump? It's that feeling. One hypothesis is that our brain does this as a way of making itself more aware of the risk. It makes sense then that when we see a small and fragile thing we wish not to damage, it would trigger this mechanism.

I've never really bought that "Call of the Void" explanation. You can imagine fairly easily what will happen if you jump from a tall building without having the urge to do it. I've always viewed it as a legitimate momentary urge, just one that conflicts with almost every other urge we have to live, so we don't do it and don't even acknowledge the urge as legitimate (most of us, anyway).

"Call of the void" isn't an explanation. It's just a definition and a label for an observed behavior/thought. There's nothing to buy.

Perhaps some poor grammar on my part. I was responding to the post with a hypothesis as to why some people experience the "call of the void": to make us more aware of the danger of doing an action that would kill us. My opinion is, this makes no sense. You can imagine what would happen quite easily without having the urge to do it. This is the "call of the void" explanation which I do not buy.

Right. Probably evolutionary instinct to protect human infants. And marketers try and exploit this all the time. Perhaps most successfully in Japan.

Yeah that's what I noticed, used in marketing a lot. I was thinking we had some feeling we were being manipulated but I guess not.

My girlfriend does it too, it was very confusing to me for a while.

It's like a seething rage of joy.

Is that like when I hear a British person speak and I just want to smother them in hugs and squeeze their cheeks saying "YOU'RE SO ADORABLE!"?

EDIT: Joking about self control aside, I don't think I'll stop smiling for a long while afterwards if I ever visit England.

The times when I've visited the USA, folks there commented how much they loved my Scottish accent.

...are you Scottish?


FYI to readers: The article gets unnecessarily graphic about violence against animals.

How are first hand accounts of a psychological phenomenon in an article describing said psychological phenomenon unnecessary?

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