Researchers believe that people find baby animals cute because of human’s instinct to protect and care for babies, according to a BBC report.
“Scientists believe that the powerful nurturing instinct we have for our own children spills over into an affection for anything that even loosely resembles them,” the media says.
This idea has existed at least since 1943, when Konrad Lorenz, Austrian ethologist and zoologist, theorized that all babies, human and non-human, share similar physical features that bring on the cuteness factor.
“From the research we have so far, it looks like the cuteness response is inclusive of everyone, regardless of whether you are a parent or not,” said Eloise Stark—a Doctor of Philosophy student at the University of Oxford—as quoted by the media.
Another theory concerns the link between cuteness and survival with scientists believing that babies have developed characteristics that make them cuter, thereby increasing the chance that parents will look after them.
It’s yet unclear if the same applies to animals, where infants stay for a much shorter time under their parents’ wings.
Adam Wilkins, a geneticist at Berlin’s Humboldt University, said for BBC that studying the history of pet breeding backs up the conclusions about people’s fondness of baby-looking animals.
“[Pets] have been bred to cater to our baby-loving demands, even if these infantile characteristics have had the unfortunate side effect of making the animals physically weaker,” Wilkins said.
On the other hand, cuteness comes at a cost—at least for “less cute” species some of which are on the brink of extinction due to being unattractive subjects for research.