Why Do Cute Animals Make Us Want to Squeeze Their Little Brains Out?

Sometimes, we just can’t handle all of that joy

Most of us have been there: that bouncing puppy, string-chasing kitty or gurgling baby suddenly seems so overwhelming cute that we want to squeeze, pinch or shake that source of adorable to death. Don’t worry—you are not deranged, and you are not alone. This seemingly out of place aggressive behavior to the world’s most cuddly and lovable critters is actually the norm, researchers recently announced at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, LiveScience reports.

The researchers gave subjects a few sheets of bubble wrap and showed them images of adorable animals, funny pictures or random shots of neutral objects. Participants who saw the cute animals popped 120 bubbles, on average. Viewers of the funny slideshow popped 80 bubbles for the funny slideshow; people looking at the neutral objects popped around 100. (Maybe they were bored?) The researches concluded that destructive feelings towards cuteness are commonplace.

Some people verbalize these feelings— think about the phrase “I want to eat you up!”—while others act on them. It’s not that people actually want to hurt a basketful of kittens or a fluffy little duckling. They may just be frustrated because they can’t give that baby walrus pictured on the internet a big hug. Or they may be overwhelmed by positive feelings of joy. Sometimes, we just can’t handle all of that happiness. Think Miss America sobbing as she gets the crown.

“It might be that how we deal with high positive-emotion is to sort of give it a negative pitch somehow,” lead researcher Rebecca Dyer said. “That sort of regulates, keeps us level and releases that energy.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Cute Baby Animal Watch: Black Howler Monkey 
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