Have you read Robert M. Sapolsky’s article about why we melt at puppy pictures? Well, it turns out the real reason may have more to do with science than with emotions.
Those mushy feelings go back to our evolutionary instinct to protect our young. You know how it is when you see a cute baby with its little bald head and its rosy, chubby cheeks; even if the baby isn’t yours, you feel this instinct takes over, and you just want to scoop the little thing into your arms, right? It just comes naturally and you don’t even think about it. Scientists also know that face time with cute babies releases the feel-good chemical dopamine in our brains. It sort of like a cycle: The cuter the baby, the higher dose of dopamine and the more we want to take care of the baby. The same is true in our response to puppies…
It turns out that our brains aren’t great at differentiating between our own cute babies and those of animals….In other words, the neural circuits that update what counts as cute do not pay attention to what species we are looking at: It’s not as if we’ve had to evolve distinctive safeguards against parenting the wrong species. The brain as a whole has no problem distinguishing human from nonhuman, cute or otherwise. Nevertheless, among humans, when it comes to adorableness, on a certain neurobiological level human baby = puppy = calf = fawn = piglet.
How fascinating! It’s cool to think of our brain like that, isn’t it? Do you find some puppies cuter than others? Do you have a puppy right now? You all know how much I love Harry and Stella, but I still could totally stare at puppy photos ALL DAY LOOONG!! xoxo