What Is ‘Cute Aggression’ Or ‘Social Biting’ And Do You Have It?

Have you ever felt the urge to squeeze something extremely cute?
Image: Getty

Have you ever seen something so adorably cute that you just need to squish it? If you have, you’re definitely not alone.

Whether it’s pinching the cheeks of a little baby or pulling a tiny dog into your lap for a bear hug, there are some cute things that elicit such a strong, impulsive physical response we can’t help it.

This is what scientists are calling ’social biting’ or ‘cute aggression’ and there are many stages. The term was originally coined by researchers back at Yale University in 2015.

Image: Getty

Cute aggression may include the need to squeeze, bite or crush cute things such as a baby or puppy.

In some studies, people were asked to hold bubble wrap and squeeze it whenever they liked. Pictures of scenery had no impact, but there was a higher rate of bubble wrap being squeezed when something adorable was displayed on a slideshow.

So what causes it exactly? Researchers found that the person in question becomes ‘overcome’ with positive emotion that the ‘aggressive’ response is employed to help control the bursting rush of love and cuteness.

Image: Getty

It’s something that has since been picked up in internet lore, with multiple content creators posting about loving their animals so much they have to physically restrain themselves from ‘cute aggressions’ in their presence.

It’s a phenomenon that Aussie scientist Dr Karl has been looking into.

He recently told Triple J that there is an evolutionary reason that we engage in ‘cute aggression’.

He uses the example of a couple who are mooning over their baby. When they’re overwhelmed by emotions of cuteness and love, it’s hard for them to see through those feelings to other dangers that might be around the baby.

Image: Getty

Their brains end up firing on all cylinders – both the emotional and the reward centres of the brain.

The ‘aggression’ response is the body’s way of overriding those controlling positive emotions and re-centering the individual so they can see what is going on around the child and see any potential threats.


ever get the urge to squeeze/bite your partner bc they’re adorable? @Dr Karl explains why we feel “cute aggression” #sciencetok #drkarlkruszelnicki #cuteaggression #adorable

♬ original sound – triple j

So, in some respects, cute aggressions and social biting are ways of ensuring we keep our priorities in line even when we’re around something distractingly cute.

Of course, there’s a line with all things. Having the urge to wrap your dog into a big bear hug is very different to wanting to bite them, so some people may find they have to work harder than others to control the impulse.

Related stories