Babies require a lot of attention, as any parents will tell you — and while the love is always there, the caretaking is not all fun and games. That’s why we have built-in biological mechanisms for overcoming the occasional irritation and impatience we experience with kids, even if the child isn’t ours.
The Japanese language offers us the term “kawaii” that touches on this feeling of something being unbearably cute. We are drawn in, and our hearts melt. This happens even for those of us who aren’t parents. Our attraction to cuteness goes way beyond ourselves, our individual habits, and our personal likes. Rather, it taps into a more universal human emotion and our species’ way of being in the world — a pattern called “neoteny,” or the retention of childlike features into adulthood. Culturally speaking, we are a species consistently drawn to the juvenile features found in babies. This is a trait engineered by evolution to guarantee we will always protect and care for our young.
Interestingly, that same principle applies to dogs. No matter how much barking, carpet peeing, digging, or scratching they do, there’s something irresistible about pups.
Animals Have the “It” Factor