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Weird reason why you sometimes want to crush your pet

Weird reason why you sometimes want to crush your pet

Ever feel like you get a kind of 'cute aggression' around your pet?

Have you ever seen an animal so cute that you just wanted to hug it so much that it pops?

Don't worry, it's entirely natural and loads of people have the same instincts from time to time, though of course we don't do like Lennie from Of Mine and Men and suddenly find ourselves with no puppy any more.

There is such a thing as being too cute to the point that it evokes feelings of aggression, but not actions.

While people might sometimes be thinking 'I want to hug this puppy so much it bursts' it's far more likely that they'll just hug the dog at an intensity the animal is comfortable at.

There is an actual psychological reason for this, as psychologist Katherine Stavropoulos of the University of California told NPR back in 2018.

Look at the cute little doggie, couldn't you just cuddle him until you both died?
Getty Stock Photo

The feeling is something scientists call 'cute aggression' and it's totally natural and fleeting as long as you don't actually get aggressive about it.

"People just have this flash of thinking: 'I want to crush it' or 'I want to squeeze it until pops' or 'I want to punch it'," Stavropoulos said of the weird reason why you sometimes want to crush your pet for being so adorable.

"When people feel this way, it's with no desire to cause harm."

She explained that around half of all adults have these feelings but would never actually act on them and do something bad to a cute animal.

Instead it's an involuntary response to your brain being overwhelmed by a positive emotion, so you actually love something so much that your brain makes you think you could just gobble it up until it was all gone because your mind is being overloaded by cuteness.

Another dog that's cute as a button, just to brighten up your day.
Getty Stock Photo

Here's the science experiment-y bit, Stavropoulos recorded the electrical activity in the brains of a group of young adults as they were shown pictures of animals and people.

Some of the pictures had been altered to look either less or more appealing, and the cuter the picture on screen the more brain activity in the parts of the mind dealing with emotions.

On top of that, the more cute aggression a person felt the more the brain's reward system lit up, and the theory among experts goes that it's the mind's attempt to restore some balance by evening out the positive feelings with some more negative ones.

As professor Oriana Aragón, one of the team who worked on this idea at Yale University where the term 'cute aggression' was coined, put it the feelings were 'dimorphous expressions of positive emotion'.

And I'm sure I don't need to tell you what that means.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Images

Topics: Science, Animals