In fact, people not only verbalize these aggressive desires with phrases like, “I just want to squeeze something!” they also really do act them out. In the study, presented Friday (Jan. 18) here at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that people watching a slideshow of adorable pictures popped more bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap than did people viewing funny or neutral pictures.
“We think it’s about high positive-affect, an approach orientation and almost a sense of lost control,” said study researcher Rebecca Dyer, a graduate student in psychology at Yale University. “You know, you can’t stand it, you can’t handle it, that kind of thing.”
Dyer got interested in what she and her colleagues call “cute aggression” after chatting with a fellow student about how adorable Internet pictures often produce the desire to squish or squeeze the cute critter. All the existing research on cuteness suggests the reaction should be the opposite, she told LiveScience. People should want to treat a cute thing with gentleness and care.