Cute Aggression

Ever saw something so cute you want to hug it and kiss it and love it and SQUEEEZE it into itty-bitty pieces? Well, you're not alone (Elmyra Duff notwithstanding).

In the Philippines, there's a word "gigil" that's translated as "the urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute." But as no such word exists in the English language, Yale researchers came up with their own: cute aggression.

Turns out not only is cute aggression real, it's also quantifiable:

The researchers began by showing 109 online participants images of animals considered either cute, funny or neutral. Cuteness was based on a general consensus from previous studies to include qualities such as round features; big, wide-set eyes; and high head-to-body size ratio. Participants were provided phrases like “That’s cute!”, “I can’t handle it!” and “I want to squeeze something!” and asked to rate the relevance of these reactions to their own (on a scale of one to 100). The results were clear: the cuter the animal, the more “cute aggressive” the response.

But expressing aggression or a loss of control is very different than acting on it. So the researchers expanded the study to include a second phase. And they probably didn’t have too much trouble coercing people to participate.

For part two the researchers brought 90 participants into the lab, provided them with bubble wrap and showed them pictures of cute, funny or neutral animals. The metric in this part was the number of bubbles popped while watching. Viewers of funny animals popped an average of 80 bubbles during a session and members of the neutral group popped about 100 each. But the people who saw cute animals popped a whopping 120 bubbles!

Breanna Draxler of Discover's 80beats explains: Link


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The way gigil is described in the article is not that accurate. You know how sometimes you get so excited you clench your jaw and sort of tense up your fists and jump in place. And utter some silly cutesy proclamation. Or you get the urge to "bunny rabbit nibble tickle" a baby's soft little belly. That's the essence of "gigil". Nothing overtly - or even slightly - aggressive about it. Or I guess we could start calling tickling "ha ha aggression". Or giving a raspberry "Bronx cheer aggression".
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