McVities’ latest advertisement campaign saw nine Pembroke Welsh corgis pop up one by one from a biscuit packet, in one of the cutest adverts of the year. Perhaps these puppies might rival the super cuteness of the Andrex puppy, who has claimed our affection over the past five years. Dogs are the cute elite of modern day advertisement, even cats seem to be a little more dog. In between sticking their tongues out of windows and chasing frisbees, they are squeezed into teeny tiny baskets and paraded around the neighbourhood to the sound of Starship’s 1985 hit ‘We Built This City’.
Harvey and Rabbit pull on some serious heart-strings with bunny rabbits producing the most loving groan of n’s, vowels and w’s. In roller blades and effortlessly dancing, the Evian babies will come a close second; miniature, adorable, innocent and just utterly squeezable. What is the reasoning behind our addiction to the cute and is there a scientific equation to cuteness?
PhD student Marta Borgi and Professor Kerstin Meints, from the University of Lincoln, carried out a study to investigate this and asked youngsters to identify the characteristics they defined as cute. They found that children as young as three years old were able to successfully identify what was cute about puppies, kittens and babies. The authors believe this is a significant step towards understanding why humans are more attracted to certain features. The set of features that make something cute are known as ‘baby-schema’ traits. This is a round face, high forehead, big eyes and a small nose and mouth. Lead author, Borgi, explained the results: “This study is important for several reasons. We already knew that adults experience this baby schema effect, finding babies with more infantile features cuter.”
“Our results provide the first rigorous demonstration that a visual preference for these traits emerges very early during development. Independently of the species viewed, children in our study spent more time looking at images with a higher degree of these baby-like features. Interestingly, while participants gave different cuteness scores to dogs, cats and humans, they all found the images of adult dog faces cuter than both adult cats and human faces.”
Pictures of human adults and babies, dogs, puppies, cats and kittens were digitally manipulated to appear ‘cuter’ by applying baby schema characteristics. The children rated how cute they thought each image was and their eye movements were analysed using specialist eye-tracking software. Professor in Developmental Psychology at Lincoln’s School of Psychology, Kerstin Meints, also notes that the research could lead to improved education in teaching children about safe behaviour with dogs.
She said: “We have also demonstrated that children are highly attracted to dogs and puppies, and we now need to find out if that attractiveness may override children’s ability to recognise stress-signalling in dogs. This study will lead to further research with an impact on real life, namely whether the ‘cuteness’ of an animal in a rescue centre makes them more likely to be adopted.”
The study helps us to understand the relationship between baby-schema traits and human perception of cuteness. In young children it is equally as instrumental and it seems they are naturally fonder of dogs than any other animal. Expect more lavish supplies of dog-related adverts and understand it is simply human nature to give into big eyes and cute faces.
What is the cutest thing you have seen?