You’ve probably heard the term “cuteness aggression” thrown around over the years. It describes the odd but seemingly common compulsion to smoosh, bite, or pinch—but not hurt—adorable things like babies and animals. Researchers have for years been looking into why some people report feeling this way. Katherine Stavropoulos is an assistant professor of special education at the University of California, Riverside and the co-author of a new study on cute aggression. She told Gizmodo by phone she became interested in the phenomenon after her friend sent her an article about it citing Yale University research on the topic. While previous research focused on the behavioral side of cute aggression, Stavropoulos’ research aimed to show that there was a neural element involved as well. She hypothesized that either the reward or emotion systems were involved, and her research seems to show it’s both. “This relationship between brain activity and cute aggression seems to be influenced by how overwhelmed you feel,” Stavropoulos told Gizmodo. “So if you feel overwhelmed [when looking at cute things], you’re more likely to have this relationship between brain activity and cute aggression.” Stavropoulos’ research focuses on how the reward system can inform our understanding and help us answer questions. For her cuteness aggression study, published this week in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Stavropoulos examined the neural element of cuteness aggression using EEG caps, which use electrodes to pick up electrical activity on the top of the scalp. Fifty-four people between the ages of 18 and… [Read full story]
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