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The 'cute' factor.

How has Tai Shan, a baby panda, attracted thousands of visitors to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., just to ooh and aah over him? Why are the stars of March of the Penguins so beguiling?

And why have sales of small cars like the Mini Cooper soared? Answer: They are all, in the eyes of most humans, cute. But just what are the ingredients for cuteness? Scientists who study visual signaling have identified a wide assortment of features that make something look cute. Among them are small size; bright, forward-facing eyes set low on a big, round face; a pair of big, round ears; floppy limbs; and a teeter-totter gait. Scientists say these "cute cues" indicate extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness, and need. And, as a species whose young are born so helpless, human beings must be wired to respond positively to anything that even remotely resembles a human baby. Advertisers and product designers frequently use cute cues to lend their merchandise instant appeal. Cuteness is distinct from beauty, researchers say, because it favors rounded over sculptured, soft over refined, clumsy over graceful. Beauty attracts admiration and demands a pedestal; cuteness attracts affection and demands a lap.
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Title Annotation:BEHAVIOR
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Date:Mar 13, 2006
Words:198
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