Breaking News
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop artificial enzymatic pathway for synthesizing isoprenoids in E. coli
January 18, 2019 - Scientists advise caution in immunotherapy research
January 18, 2019 - How children across the world develop language
January 18, 2019 - Columbia Medical Student Receives McDonogh Scholarship
January 18, 2019 - Secretive ‘Rebate Trap’ Keeps Generic Drugs For Diabetes And Other Ills Out Of Reach
January 18, 2019 - Plant based diet could be the best option for the planet says commission
January 18, 2019 - New conservation practice could reduce nitrogen from agricultural drainage, study shows
January 18, 2019 - UIC researchers receive $1.7 million NCI grant to study Southeast Asian fruit
January 18, 2019 - New study determines the fate of DNA derived from genetically modified food
January 18, 2019 - Scientists develop new gene therapy that prevents axon destruction in mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds critically low HPV vaccination rates among younger adolescents in the U.S.
January 18, 2019 - Brain cells involved in memory play key role in reducing future eating behavior
January 18, 2019 - Risk for Conversion of MS Varies With Different Therapies
January 18, 2019 - Investigational cream may help patients with inflammatory skin disease
January 18, 2019 - Medical school news office receives six writing awards | News Center
January 18, 2019 - County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing
January 18, 2019 - Research reveals risk for developing more than one mental health disorder
January 18, 2019 - Scientists discover a dramatic pattern of bone growth in female mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds link between lengthy periods of undisturbed maternal sleep and stillbirths
January 18, 2019 - New nuclear medicine method could improve detection of primary and metastatic melanoma
January 18, 2019 - Combination therapy shows high efficacy in treating people with leishmaniasis and HIV
January 18, 2019 - Health Tip: Don’t Ignore Changes in Skin Color
January 18, 2019 - Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
January 18, 2019 - Eliminating the latent reservoir of HIV
January 18, 2019 - Pain From The Government Shutdown Spreads. This Time It’s Food Stamps
January 18, 2019 - Newly discovered regulatory mechanism helps control fat metabolism
January 18, 2019 - New rapid blood tests could speed up TB diagnosis, save the NHS money
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop intelligent system for ‘tuning’ powered prosthetic knees
January 18, 2019 - Monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab prolongs survival in patients with squamous cell carcinoma
January 18, 2019 - New research detects mosquito known to transmit malaria for the first time in Ethiopia
January 18, 2019 - ACCC survey finds multiple threats to growth of cancer programs
January 18, 2019 - Meeting the challenge of engaging men in HIV prevention and treatment
January 18, 2019 - Furloughed Feds’ Health Coverage Intact, But Shutdown Still Complicates Things
January 18, 2019 - Experts discuss various aspects on health risks posed by fumigated containers
January 18, 2019 - Researchers use gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to limit impact of parasitic diseases
January 18, 2019 - Alpha neurofeedback training could be a means of enhancing learning success
January 18, 2019 - Innovative ‘light’ method demonstrates positive results in fight against malignant tumors
January 18, 2019 - The cytoskeleton of neurons found to play role in Alzheimer’s disease
January 18, 2019 - New resource-based approach to improve HIV care in low- and middle-income countries
January 18, 2019 - Bedfont appoints Dr Jafar Jafari as first member of the Gastrolyzer Medical Advisory Board
January 18, 2019 - New study shows link between secondhand smoke and cardiac arrhythmia
January 18, 2019 - DZIF scientists reveal problems with available diagnostics for Zika and chikungunya virus
January 18, 2019 - Breast cancers more likely to metastasize in young women within 10 years of giving birth
January 18, 2019 - Over 5.6 million Americans exposed to high nitrate levels in drinking water
January 18, 2019 - Blood vessels can now be created perfectly in a petri dish
January 18, 2019 - Study identifies prominent socioeconomic and racial disparities in health behavior in Indiana
January 18, 2019 - Young-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Tied to Increased Hospitalization Risk
January 18, 2019 - For-profit nursing schools associated with lower performance on nurse licensure test
January 18, 2019 - Considering the culture of consent in medicine
January 18, 2019 - Researchers identify comprehensive guidelines for managing severe atopic dermatitis
January 18, 2019 - Analyzing proteins in blister fluid may classify burn severity more accurately
January 18, 2019 - Study finds higher suicide rates among youth who were Medicaid enrollees
January 18, 2019 - Opioid drugs often overprescribed to children for pain relief, say CHOP surgeons
January 18, 2019 - New biodegradable wound dressing material accelerates healing
January 18, 2019 - Life in Space May Take Toll on Spinal Muscles
January 18, 2019 - Bulldogs’ screw tails linked to human genetic disease
January 18, 2019 - Immunotherapy target identified for pediatric cancers
January 18, 2019 - Financial stress may increase heart disease risk in African Americans
January 18, 2019 - Scientists solve another piece of Ebola virus puzzle
January 18, 2019 - New project finds how endocrine disruptors interfere with thyroid functions
January 18, 2019 - Research finds decline in ketone body utilization when coronary circulation is reduced
January 18, 2019 - Let’s map our DNA and save billions each year in health costs
January 18, 2019 - AI demonstrates potential to identify irregular heart rhythms as well as humans
January 17, 2019 - Study shows link between air pollution and increased risk of sleep apnea
January 17, 2019 - Neck-strengthening exercises can protect athletes from concussions
January 17, 2019 - Computer model shows how to better control MRSA outbreaks
January 17, 2019 - Pain is unpleasant, and now scientists have identified the set of responsible neurons
January 17, 2019 - CUIMC Celebrates 2018-2019
January 17, 2019 - Study reveals potential pathway for endothelial cells to avoid apoptosis
January 17, 2019 - Hamilton Storage launches LabElite DeCapper SL to expand LabElite product family
January 17, 2019 - Location of epigenetic changes co-locate with genetic signal causing psychartric disorder
January 17, 2019 - Researchers awarded 6.1 million euros to address female fertility problems
January 17, 2019 - Counseling appointments fail to reduce weight gain during pregnancy, shows study
January 17, 2019 - Contraceptive patch that could provide 6 months of contraception within seconds
January 17, 2019 - Yeast model may pave way for development of novel therapies for metabolic disorders
January 17, 2019 - Study determines impact of antibiotic perturbation of the gut microbiome on skeletal health
January 17, 2019 - Cardiometabolic Risk Up With Tourette, Chronic Tic Disorder
January 17, 2019 - Hong Kong scientists claim ‘broad-spectrum’ antiviral breakthrough
January 17, 2019 - Researchers discover the brain cells that make pain unpleasant | News Center
January 17, 2019 - Hepatitis Is Common in New Cancer Patients
Researcher takes further steps in understanding how and why cute aggression occurs

Researcher takes further steps in understanding how and why cute aggression occurs

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Have you ever looked at a puppy and had the urge to squeeze or even bite it? Or felt compelled to pinch a baby’s cheeks, albeit without a desire to harm it? If you answered yes to either question, you’ve experienced a phenomenon called cute aggression — and you’re far from alone.

Until now, research exploring how and why cute aggression occurs has been the domain of behavioral psychology, said Katherine Stavropoulos, an assistant professor of special education at the University of California, Riverside. But recently Stavropoulos, a licensed clinical psychologist with a background in neuroscience, has taken formal study of the phenomenon a few steps further.

In her research, Stavropoulos uses electrophysiology to evaluate surface-level electrical activity that arises from neurons firing in people’s brains. By studying that activity, she gauges neural responses to a range of external stimuli.

Stavropoulos said she first heard the term “cute aggression” after a team of Yale University psychologists released research related to the phenomenon in 2015.

“The Yale researchers initially found that people reported feeling cute aggression more in response to baby animals versus adult animals,” Stavropoulos said. “But even beyond that, people reported feeling cute aggression more in response to picture of human babies that had been digitally enhanced to appear more infantile, and therefore ‘more cute,’ by enlarging features like their eyes, cheeks, and foreheads.”

After poring over the Yale research, Stavropoulos wondered whether there was a neural component to cute aggression. If people reported experiencing urges to squeeze, crush, or even bite creatures they found cute, would their brains also reflect patterns of activity that could be tied to those urges?

Stavropoulos hypothesized that the brains of people who reported experiencing cute aggression would, in fact, provide evidence of detectable activity. She suggested the activity might be related to the brain’s reward system, which deals with motivation, feelings of “wanting,” and pleasure, or to its emotion system, which handles emotional processing — or, more likely, to both.

Stavropoulos and UCR doctoral student Laura Alba recruited 54 study participants between the ages of 18 and 40, all of whom agreed to wear caps outfitted with electrodes. While wearing the caps, participants looked at four blocks of 32 photographs divided into categories:

  • Cute (enhanced) babies
  • Less cute (non-enhanced) babies
  • Cute (baby) animals
  • Less cute (adult) animals

After viewing each block on a computer screen, participants were then shown a set of statements and asked to rate how much they agreed with them on a scale of 1 to 10.

The survey was designed to assess how cute participants found each block of photographs — known as “appraisal” — and how much cute aggression they were experiencing in response. Participants also rated how overwhelmed they felt after viewing the photos (“I can’t handle it!” and “I can’t stand it!”) and whether they felt compelled to take care of what they had just viewed (“I want to hold it!” and “I want to protect it!”).

Stavropoulos said the statements were the same ones used in Yale researcher Oriana Aragón’s groundbreaking 2015 study of cute aggression.

Overall, participants self-reported more significant feelings of cute aggression, being overwhelmed, appraisal, and caretaking toward cute (baby) animals than toward less cute (adult) animals. Among the two categories of babies — cute (enhanced) and less cute (non-enhanced) — the researchers did not observe the same pattern.

Using electrophysiology, Stavropoulos also measured study participants’ brain activity before, during, and after viewing the sets of images. To her knowledge, the study’s results, published this week in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, are the first to confirm a neural basis for cute aggression.

Based on the neural activity she observed in participants who experienced cute aggression, Stavropoulos’s findings offer direct evidence of both the brain’s reward system and emotion system being involved in the phenomenon.

“There was an especially strong correlation between ratings of cute aggression experienced toward cute animals and the reward response in the brain toward cute animals,” Stavropoulos said. “This is an exciting finding, as it confirms our original hypothesis that the reward system is involved in people’s experiences of cute aggression.”

Another result that Stavropoulos said lends weight to prior theories: The relationship between how cute something is and how much cute aggression someone experiences toward it appears to be tied to how overwhelmed that person is feeling.

“Essentially, for people who tend to experience the feeling of ‘not being able to take how cute something is,’ cute aggression happens,” Stavropoulos said. “Our study seems to underscore the idea that cute aggression is the brain’s way of ‘bringing us back down’ by mediating our feelings of being overwhelmed.”

Stavropoulos likened this process of mediation to an evolutionary adaptation. Such an adaptation may have developed as a means of ensuring people are able to continue taking care of creatures they consider particularly cute.

“For example, if you find yourself incapacitated by how cute a baby is — so much so that you simply can’t take care of it — that baby is going to starve,” Stavropoulos said. “Cute aggression may serve as a tempering mechanism that allows us to function and actually take care of something we might first perceive as overwhelmingly cute.”

In the future, Stavropoulos hopes to use electrophysiology to study the neural bases of cute aggression in a variety of populations and groups, such as mothers with postpartum depression, people with autism spectrum disorder, and participants with and without babies or pets.

“I think if you have a child and you’re looking at pictures of cute babies, you might exhibit more cute aggression and stronger neural reactions,” she said. “The same could be true for people who have pets and are looking pictures of cute puppies or other small animals.

Source:

https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2018/12/04/so-cute-you-could-crush-it

About author

Related Articles