If your reaction to seeing Baby Yoda in Disney+’s new series, “The Mandalorian” (or in photos posted all over social media) for the first time was, “I can’t take it!” you’re not alone.
Nearly everyone who has stared into those big moon eyes has become instantly obsessed. Turns out, there’s a scientific reason why people are going gaga over Baby Yoda, who even has his/her own parody Twitter account and merchandise line (from plush toys to Funko figures).
“The reason everyone is losing it over Baby Yoda is because he has every single feature we would prototypically consider cute,” Katherine Stavropoulos, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of California at Riverside’s Graduate School of Education, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When we think about why something is cute, the scientific answer is there is this idea of baby schema,” a set of physical features that are typically perceived as cute.
These features aren’t just meant to make people “ooh” and “aww” over cute babies; they’re “an important adaptive trait for promoting protective and caregiving behaviors in adults, thereby increasing the chances of infant survival,” according to a 2015 study published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology.
Although Baby Yoda is far from a human infant, the vulnerable-looking creature checks all of the boxes in the cuteness categories.
“Baby Yoda is an exact example of this: really big eyes, small noses, chubby cheeks,” says Stavropoulos. “These are prototypical infantile features that make it look young, like a baby. Those are the ones we react to the most strongly and are drawn to. Baby Yoda has all of them, so it’s not surprising that people have collectively lost their minds. The eyes are especially huge, which I think is a huge driving factor.”
For some, looking at Baby Yoda can even trigger what’s called “cute aggression” — that feeling you get when you can’t stand how cute something is and have this urge to “eat,” squeeze or pinch it (without actually wanting to cause real harm), or find yourself clenching your jaw.
Being in the presence of cuteness lights up their brain’s reward system and overwhelms them. “It seems like the reward system overfires,” explains Stavropoulos, who has researched cute aggression. “People feeling more cute aggression are the ones reporting being overwhelmed by their positive feelings.”
While researchers are still unraveling why this happens to certain people, Stavropoulos says one theory is that the reaction serves “almost like a down-regulation to make people stop being overwhelmed by something.” She adds, “If your baby was so cute that you’re incapacitated, your baby would die — that doesn’t work if you’re overwhelmed and can’t do anything. People think that [cute aggression] might serve as a mechanism to re-regulate and bring you back down” so you’re not completely overwhelmed by your feelings.
But even scientists aren’t immune to Baby Yoda’s charm, with Stavropoulos sharing that the little creature is “super adorable,” adding, “I want to hug him.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: