You and your puppy dog eyes February 16, 2017 15:56
“There’s going to be a puppy petting afternoon at the Student Union, how cool is that?” Exclaims number one son, dodging the previous question about how his dissertation is going very neatly. He says they have organised it so that overworked students can find a few hours of stress relief amongst a pile of fluffy and adorable cuteness. But why, I ponder, would they not be de-stressed in a roomful of stick insects or carp or fruit flies instead? The answer lies in science. The science of “cute” is an actual real thing and if it didn’t work as well as it does, the world would end. Ok, that’s not STRICTLY true, no need to call on Bruce Willis in his vest quite yet. However, honestly, if cute held no power over us, we would have serious problems
A mammal’s young, on the whole, including puppies, kittens and babies for our purposes, evoke a strong, caring response. They need us to look after and nurture them. Their physical characteristics at this very early stage of development (called Baby Schema. yup, get me, that’s a proper scientific term) include big bobbly heads, large eyes, soft roly-poly bodies, soft floppy ears and wobbly limbs. When we see these things it stimulates an area in our middle brain called the mesocorticolimbic system. This leads to a surge of dopamine (the pleasure chemical associated with love and reward). They effectively make us care for them. The sounds they make do that too, even their smells (not ALL smells, just some.) It isn’t just mothers who are roped in, oh no, men are too, no gender specifics here.
In the wider animal kingdom, some young have to survive by themselves immediately after birth, that includes most fish, insects and retiles and generally speaking it’s true, these critters are not cute.
So have dogs rather cleverly developed this “doe-eyed” look to exploit human preferences? Did the ancestors of our modern day pups make mankind love him? Seems so. It is no wonder the pug is so popular, and the French Bulldog and the Boston Terrier. I mean those eyes! Those little button noses! And those Cairns, with their fuzzy heads and little droopy ears and tilting heads so cute!
“So son, how is the dissertation coming on?”