All About Babies

Babies Control Us With Their Cuteness, Because Science

Turns out we're all suckers for babies because their cuteness is designed to make us feel that way.

Super cute smiling baby makes you want to take care of him. Shutterstock
I was never one of those girls growing up who dreamed about having babies. I never babysat for my neighbors' kids. I didn't ogle newborns when I came across them out in public. And even when the first few of my friends finally started popping out infants, I still didn't get the appeal.

But then my sister-in-law had a baby—a little boy. And from the first minute I reached out to hold him and took in those chubby cheeks, and soft skin, and that crazy amazing smell... well, I was a goner.

Turns out, I was being manipulated. Because, according to a new study out of the University of Oxford, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, a baby's cuteness is scientifically engineered to appeal to all of our senses in order to kick our caregiving sensibilities into high gear. Which is vital because infants need our constant attention to survive and thrive.

Pretty sneaky, right?

"This is the first evidence of its kind to show that cuteness helps infants to survive by eliciting caregiving, which cannot be reduced to simple, instinctual behaviors," said study leader Morten Kringelbach, D. Phil., at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. "Instead, caregiving involves a complex choreography of slow, careful, deliberate, and long-lasting prosocial behaviors, which ignite fundamental brain pleasure systems that are also engaged when eating food or listening to music, and always involve pleasant experiences."

And don't think you're immune to a newborn's adorableness just because you happen to be a guy. Because when it comes to making parents melt with their cuteness, babies are apparently equal opportunity offenders.

"This might be a fundamental response present in everyone, regardless of parental status or gender," Kringelbach explained.

In other words, we're all suckers here.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.