Research has confirmed what we’ve known all along – watching baby animals do what baby animals do best – being adorably cute – is good for the soul.
A study conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom (UK), in partnership with Western Australia Tourism, has found evidence to suggest that watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety. Just 30 minutes of cuteness overload affects blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety – all in a good way.
Why do we love baby animals so much? Because just like human babies, baby animals are curious, clumsy, and playful.
One just needs to look into the doe eyes of a baby orangutan to feel all warm and fuzzy inside and trigger the ‘awww’ response.
The great news is that it doesn’t matter what baby animal it is either. Even those creatures who make pretty daunting adults pluck heartstrings when they’re little – think of a baby hippo, a grizzly bear, and even a blobfish, which, by the way, looks surprisingly sweet when born.
While the reason we love baby animals is still not clear, a few theories exist. The biggest is that baby animals remind us of human infants, whom we are meant to protect, love, and cherish.
In 1943, Austrian ethologist and zoologist Konrad Lorenz was the first to suggest that all infants have certain features in common that are universally appealing. They include a large head relative to the body, chubby cheeks, a high forehead, a small nose and mouth, and rounder bodies. We simply can’t help but gravitate towards anything that fits this cute blueprint, described by Lorenz as the ‘baby schema’ – even a baby elephant which has very little in common with human babies physically but has a clumsy swagger that perhaps reminds us of a toddler who’s learning how to walk.
Another theory states that our empathy towards baby animals allows us to better interact and connect with them. Research published in 2009 by German and American scientists found that both women and men seem to have an internal trigger that not only zooms in on cuteness but also prompts us to want to look after the creature in question – which suggests this is an evolutionary adaptation.