The Power of Kawaii: How Cute, Squishy Things Influence Us

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This 12 months has been something however cute. It’s been often optimistic, however principally unpredictable, tumultuous, and painful. But cute? Far from it.

Enter the timeline cleanse. You could have seen them: social media pictures, usually of cute animals or infants, meant to disrupt your feed. The unrelenting information cycle that performs out on social media—and in our private lives—can depart us dispirited and desensitized. A timeline cleanse is supposed to interrupt that cycle with a reprieve from the chaos.

“I think kawaii, or cute feelings, reminds us of human connection that we sometimes forget,” says Hiroshi Nittono, director of the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory at Osaka University.

Nittono is a kawaii researcher—that’s, he research the Japanese idea of cuteness and the way we expertise it. His analysis has discovered that kawaii photographs, like pictures of puppies or kittens (or child alpacas, maybe?) helps us focus and take note of element, improves our consideration, and results in higher job efficiency.

“Kawaii things not only make us happier but also affect our behavior,” Nittono’s unique 2012 research reported.

In Western tradition, we’ve come to suppose of kawaii as a synonym for cute. In Japan, the place the kawaii aesthetic has been its personal popular culture phenomenon for many years, the phrase is a little more complicated. Nittono says the Japanese phrase kawaii was initially an affective adjective that expressed one’s emotions towards an object. “In Japanese, we can say ‘feel kawaii,’” he provides. Visually, kawaii is tied to what researchers name child schema—a big head, spherical face, and massive eyes—however kawaii entails the opposite senses too. In a paper printed within the journal Universal Access, researchers reported that folks additionally label sure sounds as cute, and people sounds are usually excessive pitched, just like the chirp of a child chook. Kawaii isn’t all the time what we might historically describe as cute, both. Ugly or unusual trying issues may also elicit kawaii emotions, an idea known as kimo-kawaii, or “gross cute.”

Put merely, Nittono says, kawaii is the “cute emotion” you expertise within the presence of one thing that triggers that emotion. Kawaii is what compels you to pinch a child’s cheeks or snuggle a pet. Kawaii additionally influences our emotions and conduct in different methods, he says. It has a relaxing and therapeutic impact, for example. It additionally makes us smooth—extra malleable and open to requests.

Kawaii not solely makes you need to bodily embrace the lovable factor, it additionally prompts an instinctive want to guard it. And this protecting feeling could also be why kawaii makes us extra attentive and centered on duties. In a 2009 research, members carried out higher on a cautious job (the digital board sport Operation) after they had been proven cute photographs. In his personal analysis, Nittono and his colleagues found related findings. “Viewing cute images of baby animals elicits a motivation to act tenderly and responsibly to protect them,” he explains. “This idea holds that weak and defenseless but cute entities trigger caregiving behavior in the beholder.” Cute issues make us really feel protecting, and once we’re protecting, we may be naturally extra centered, current, and attentive.

Nittono’s analysis hypothesizes that cuteness may set off one thing referred to as strategy motivation, which is an impulse towards a optimistic stimulus. Approach motivation permits us to focus higher on systematic processes that require us to watch out, like driving, finishing duties at work, or enjoying a sport of Operation.

Engineers, advertisers, and builders have taken benefit of this phenomenon, utilizing kawaii to control consumer expertise and client conduct. Researchers name it cute engineering. It’s a strategy to harness optimistic emotions and feelings to “motivate, engage and shape the user’s behavior in a positive way,” writes Owen Noel Newton Fernando, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Sometimes cute engineering is delicate, nevertheless it’s usually fairly apparent. Engineers use kawaii within the area of robotics, for example—the cuter the robotic, the extra people will need to interact with it.

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