The scientific reason why we’re so obsessed with Baby Yoda

Rachel Grumman Bender
baby yoda
There's a scientific reason why people are obsessed with Baby Yoda. Photo: Disney+

Even if you haven’t yet seen the new Disney+ series, ‘The Mandalorian’, chances are you’ve probably seen a photo or meme or ten of this little green character across social media.

And if your reaction to seeing Baby Yoda for the first time was, “I can’t take it!” you’re actually not alone.

Although apparently Oscar Isaac, the man who plays Poe Dameron on screen in Star Wars movies The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and the The Rise of Skywalker, which hits cinemas this week, isn’t buying into the hype.

“I’m not into the Baby Yoda thing. Kill it! Stamp it! Smoosh it,” Isaac told news.com.au, after being asked to pick who is cuter between Baby Yoda and his character’s sidekick BB8.

But nearly everyone else who has stared into those big moon eyes has become instantly obsessed and it turns out, there’s a scientific reason why people are going gaga over Baby Yoda, who already has his/her own parody Twitter account and merchandise line.

“The reason everyone is losing it over Baby Yoda is because he has every single feature we would prototypically consider cute,” Katherine Stavropoulos 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 behaviours 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 Katherine.

“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 Katherine, who has researched cute aggression. “People feeling more cute aggression are the ones reporting being overwhelmed by their positive feelings.”

But even scientists aren’t immune to Baby Yoda’s charm, with Katherine admitting the little creature is “super adorable,” adding, “I want to hug him.”

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