Best Of The Web
“All puppies are cute,” explains Clive Wynne, the head of Arizona State University’s canine-science laboratory. “But not all puppies are equally cute.” Indeed, breeders have long found that puppies become their cutest selves at the eight-week mark; any older, and some breeders offer a discount to bolster would-be owners’ weakened desire. Such fine-tuned preferences might seem arbitrary, even cruel. But recent research indicates that peak puppy cuteness serves important purposes—and might play a fundamental role in binding dog and owner together.
In a study published this spring, Wynne and his colleagues sought to pin down, scientifically, the timeline of puppy cuteness. Their finding largely matched that of breeders: People consistently rated dogs most attractive when they were six to eight weeks old. This age, Wynne says, coincides with a crucial developmental milestone: Mother dogs stop nursing their young around the eighth week, after which pups rely on humans for survival. (Puppies without human caretakers face mortality rates of up to 95 percent in their first year of life.) Peak cuteness, then, is no accident—at exactly the moment when our intervention matters most, puppies become irresistible to us.
It doesn’t hurt that humans seem to be especially vulnerable to cute things. Research dating back to the 1940s shows that virtually any creature with babylike features—large eyes, a bulging forehead, short limbs—is capable of drawing our affection, from the unsurprising (seals, koalas) to the odd (axolotls, a type of salamander) to the inanimate (Mickey Mouse). But canine cuteness is uniquely human-directed, and its strategic deployment is not confined to puppies. In a 2017 study of dogs ages one to 12, psychologists in the United Kingdom showed that people’s pets were significantly more likely to raise their brows and stick out their tongue when humans were looking at them, visual cues that lend grown canines a puppyish air. Other research makes clear just why dogs seek to command our attention in this way. Oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, has been found to surge in dogs and their owners after they look in each other’s eyes—initiating the same feedback loop that exists between human mothers and their babies. In other words, the more dogs get us to look at them, the more tightly bonded to them we grow.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"The United States and Russia are entering a new arms race, and the costs aren’t just monetary. On August 8, Russian civilians around the remote village of Nyonoksa found themselves downwind of a military nuclear propulsion experiment gone wrong..."
"I don't know about you, but for me "Having more people run for president and effectively doubling the number of primary contests" is not up there with "Michigan beating Notre Dame in the playoffs" and "A new deluxe edition of Barbara Bush's..."
"A growing body of research suggests that, rather than posing a threat to individual wellbeing, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle represents a pathway to a more satisfied life. Numerous studies have found that people who purchase green..."
"What should a parent do when a 2-year-old shrieks inconsolably because her string cheese wrapper tore “the wrong way”? Increasingly, the answer is “snap a photo, add a snarky caption and upload it to Instagram.” Publicly laughing at your..."
"The yield curve’s inverted! The yield curve’s inverted! That was the news I awoke to last Wednesday on CNBC as the 10 year Treasury note yield dipped below the 2 year yield for the first time since 2007. That’s the sign everyone has been waiting..."
"Even a casual observer of the entertainment industry knows that Hollywood is hooked on established intellectual property at the expense of original ideas and awash in more money than it knows how to sensibly spend. But three stories about the..."
"One of the formative texts of the Safed myth, which first portrayed the town as a unique place and which was responsible for spreading word of it all around the Jewish world, is the four letters that Rabbi Solomon Shlumil of Dreznitz sent, in..."
"There are lots of reasons to patent something. The most obvious one is that you’ve come up with a brilliant invention, and you want to protect your idea so that nobody can steal it from you. But that’s just the tip of the patent strategy iceberg..."