Whether or not you’ve started binging “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, you definitely know who Baby Yoda is, the viral sensation to come out of the new series.
The adorable character has already inspired a slew of memes and merch, with tons of fans cooing over how cute he looks across social media.
There is a scientific reason why people are so won over by the character — even if they haven’t seen the show.
“When we think about why something is cute, the scientific reason is there is this idea of baby schema,” wrote Professor Katherine Stavropoulos told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Baby Yoda is an exact example of this: really big eyes, small nose, chubby cheeks. These are prototypical infantile features that make it look young, like a baby. Those are the ones we react to the most strongly and are drawn to.”
Baby Yoda’s features — particularly his eyes and adorably large ears — check off all the boxes. Even though he doesn’t look a traditional human infant, our brains immediate associate these features with babies. His exaggerated cuteness makes him seem vulnerable and sweet, which is why people have gone crazy over him.
But, if you’ve felt overwhelmed watching Baby Yoda take a sip from a bowl of soup, you’re not alone.
Looking at something like Baby Yoda can trigger a phenomenon called “cute aggression,” which is when something is so cute, you get the urge to squeeze or pinch it.
It’s a paradoxical urge to feel aggressive over cuteness. Stavropoulos says that it’s connected to the level of reward-related brain activity you’re experiencing when looking at something like a baby or puppy.
“It seems like the reward system overfires,” Stavropoulos said. “People feeling more cute aggression are the ones reporting feeling overwhelmed by their positive feelings.”
One theory as to why “cute aggression” exists is that the reaction serves as a way to regulate overwhelming feelings.
Stavropoulos conducted a study on how common cute aggression is, and published in Psychology Today that 64 percent of people have reported having ever said, “It’s so cute I want to squeeze it!” 74 percent said that they have actually squeezed a cute animal in a tight hug, and 60 percent said that they’ve squeezed a cute baby.
These numbers help explain why not everyone wants to squeeze Baby Yoda, and at the same time, people who feel overwhelmed by their urge to bite him can blame it on science.
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