Accepted paper:

Beyond babies and bunnies: approaches to modeling the perception of cuteness


Jason Mario Dydynski (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

This research discusses the existing shortcomings in popular theoretical models of cuteness perception, and offers a cognitive model to better address the joint socio-cultural and biological aspects involved in the perception cuteness.

Paper long abstract:

Cuteness as a scientific concept largely centers around a series of characteristics proposed by Konrad Lorenz (1943) entitled the Kindchenschema. The majority of research analyzing the perception of cuteness, has focused primarily on these proposed traits and how they present themselves in human infants and to some extent living animal species. But, conclusions drawn from these former studies do not necessarily provide insight as to what factors contribute to the perception of cuteness in representations of animals and non-biological objects. Additionally, existing research largely fails to consider the place of cuteness in cultural and social processes. This research then aims to discuss the existing shortcomings in widely accepted models of cuteness and then move on to establish whether an anthropomorphic analogy, in that of the Kindchenschema, can be extended beyond the perception of human infants or animals to that of inanimate objects, with limited anthropomorphic features. As a tentative solution this research offers a cognitive model for the perception of these characteristics based on semiotic theories in that of Umwelt (Uexküll 1982) and Modeling Systems Theory (Sebeok and Danesi 2000). This research offers a starting point into the exploration of cuteness as both a socio-cultural and biological phenomenon.

panel Sui01
Cuteness: forms, politics, transformations