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That Desire to Pinch Your Baby's Cheeks and Bite Her Arms? It's Called Cute Aggression
  • If you have ever taken a look at your baby and felt the irresistible urge to pinch her cheeks and arms or even bite her, you are not alone. Sometimes people who see things they find incredibly cute and adorable tend to get overwhelmed by their emotions and have difficulty controlling themselves. This phenomenon is common, and there is a name for it: cute aggression.

    The ‘cute aggression’ behavior

    Cute aggression is defined as a type of “dimorphous” expression — when a person feels a strong emotion but expresses the opposite of that emotion. Take crying as an example. It is often associated with sadness, but a dimorphous expression is when one cries during a happy moment.

    The first study to actually use the term ‘cute aggression’ was done by Oriana Aragón, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the Clemson University School of Business. This study concluded that cute aggression might be a person’s way of dealing with profuse positive emotions.

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    Cute aggression is harmless

    Cute aggression, which a 2018 study suggested happens in the brain’s reward and emotion system, is “when we feel happiness that is so intense, it manifests as a violent impulse,” Aragón says. When people see cute babies, animals, or others, they might say things like, “Ang sarap mo kurutin!” or “I could just eat you up!” They might even make these remarks through gritted teeth or with clenched fists, which can make the behavior seem more alarming. It is “that overwhelming desire to crush, bite, or squeeze cute things, but without actually wanting to hurt it,” as VICE writes


    However, just because you experience cute aggression while looking at your baby doesn’t mean you actually want to harm her. Just like what Aragón’s study shows, cute aggression might be your brain’s way of helping you cope with how overwhelmed you are with love for your baby.

    “This might be our brain’s way of saying, ‘Chill out. Regulate it. Take a deep breath,’” psychologist Katherine Stavropoulos, who led the 2018 study, tells VICE. “You can’t be incapacitated by how cute something is, because if you are, you can’t take care of it.”

    What other parents are reading

    Cute aggession doesn’t happen to everyone

    In a column on Psychology Today, Stavropoulos writes that cute aggression is actually not a universal phenomenon. In her study, only 64% people reported having said “It’s so cute I want to squeeze it!” in their lives; only 74% said they had squeezed an animal before; only 60% had squeezed a cute baby before. BabyGaga also points out there is no evidence to show that parents are more likely to experience cute aggression than people who don’t have children or vice versa.

    Cute aggression is normal

    According to a 2012 study, a baby’s adorable features are perfectly designed to make adults want to care for her. In this study, researchers had asked participants to look at two sets of photos and rank them based on how much they were motivated to take care of them. One set of the images was manipulated so they would look cuter (large eyes, chubby cheeks, small noses, etc.). Not surprisingly, the photos of adorable babies were found to elicit more “protect and care” emotions in the participants.

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