The sight of a big-eyed, chubby-cheeked, and plump newborn makes many women and men alike go “goo goo ga ga,” but what exactly makes babies draw the “awww” from the most unfriendly of people? The reason why babies give us the warm and fuzzies has been pinpointed down to a specific set of traits known as “baby schema," which include: a large, rounded head; large eyes below the midline of the face; protruding cheeks; big forehead; round body; and soft skin. However, why exactly do babies have these traits?
“Humans have adapted to find certain traits aesthetically pleasing and downright adorable in an effort to increase interaction, care, and protection from parents,” AsapSCIENCE co-creator Mitchell Moffit says in the “Why Are Babies So Cute?” video. The secret baby formula is “cuteness” equals more care and more protection, which is essential for human babies who are dependent on their parents when they’re born. This enhances offspring survival and perpetuates the human species.
When these traits are seen or enhanced by people, it activates the “mesocorticolimbic” system, which boosts anticipation of reward and leads to a sense of enjoyment, the motivation to care for something, or the motivation to hold or cuddle an object. Overall, it is all in our head, and it is the very baby schema in infants’ faces that drives cuteness perception and the motivation for caretaking in adults. The more drawn you are to a baby, the more likely you will nurture and protect that baby.
Parents, continue the incessant cooing, baby talk, and cheek-pinching for the sake of your baby’s survival. Babies, drool away.