What Makes Things Cute?
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What Makes Things Cute?

It's all in the eyes.

What Makes Things Cute?

Why do we love videos of stumbling puppies and kittens playing peekaboo? What is it about cute things that make them… cute?

The word “cute” actually came about from the word “acute,” which originally meant shrewd and perceptive. Almost two hundred years ago, it was shortened to “cute,” as slang to describe a pretty girl. The word evolved from there to mean cuddly and delicate and youthful.

“Cuteness” can be relative, but for the most part, we all think the same things are absolutely adorable (cue the moment when you and all your friends say “aww” at the same time). And as it turns out, we’re basically hardwired to identify certain traits as being cute.

So, what defines cuteness? Scientists have narrowed it down to a few different things, but for the most part have been able to agree on the origin of cuteness…

The characteristics of babies! It’s natural to want to take care of babies because they’re young and helpless and… cute.

So… what exactly are these traits?

1. A large head compared to the rest of the body.

Think of basically any “cute” cartoon character. Big head? Check. For the most part, people are as tall as seven and half of their own heads. If you were looking at drawing of a superhero, the figure would probably be between eight and nine “heads” tall. But looking at a cute cartoon character? More likely to be between five and six, maybe even less.

2. Large eyes.

Babies are born with their eyes already the size they will be throughout life. But, because the rest of the body and face isn’t at a full-grown size, the eyes are disproportionately large. And it’s absolutely adorable.

Remember that moment in Shrek? When Puss in Boots goes from being a fierce cat warrior to an adorable kitten?

It’s all in the eyes.

Now, think about the way you do your eye makeup.

It makes your eyes look bigger in order to make you look more “cute.”

3. Rounded and soft body features.

Which one of the faces above is the most cute? You probably chose the one farthest to the left. Big forehead? Big cheeks? Those are baby features and ones that we find super cute.

Think these features apply only to living things?


Look at this hammer.

Now look at this one.

Cute ,right? Right.

The hammer may not have eyes, or even technically have a face or head, but it has soft, rounded features and is short and stout. And those features make the hammer really, really cute!

So there you have it. Things are cute to us because they have the characteristics of human babies. That’s why certain characteristics are universally considered to be cute. However, scientists think that if babies looked differently, then we would have a different perception of what would be considered cute. For example, if babies had little eyes instead of large ones, then we would consider small eyes to be adorable.

For more research and to see what inspired this article, check out Vsauce's video here and Josh's article here.

Need any more cute?

You're welcome.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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