I am totally addicted to the web site cuteoverload.com. Basically it's just a website with cutesy pictures of cutesy animals. And for me it's like crack. I'm there like 20 times a day. Why? What am I getting out of it?
I keep trying to figure this out. Maybe looking at these images releases some sort of chemical(s) in my brain. If, as they say, violent and unpleasant imagery can have a negative effect on our stress levels, doesn't it only stand to reason that sweet, fuzzy stuff can have a positive one?
There are, incidentally, those who would argue that violent images do not have negative repercussions on the body. That just seems like bullshit to me, since I can say with certainty that violent flicks make me twitchy. But y'know, maybe I'm one in a million!
Anyway, I'm going to entertain the idea that pleasant pix are good for my health even if I can't find a whole lot of research to back this up. It's obvious there's something here, though, when you look at advertising. Has anyone ever wonderred what bunnies have to do with cellphones?
And even though cuteoverload.com is kind of an addiction, it can't be bad for me, can it? I mean, it's not crack. It's bunnies and hamsters and mini horsies. There's no way that could be bad, right? Right?
What the experts say
"Images can activate the parts of your brain involved in reward processing. This would be true when looking at very attractive people. The cuteness or attractiveness factor is really important to our brains. I don't know if looking at pleasurable images is a potential form of therapy for people who aren't feeling good about themselves. It's what marketing uses all the time. Positive images activate your amygdala, which is often thought of as your threat centre. It's been associated most with fear conditioning, but not just with that. I've done studies involving odours that show when you like something you're actually turning off the parts of your orbital frontal cortex that respond to not liking something or anxiety or anger."
ADAM K. ANDERSON , Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, U of T
"Research has been done in laboratories with kittens in relation to toilet paper. Cute animals are pretty popular. They've been used a lot, and you can think of icons like the Pillsbury Doughboy. The theory is that when the product comes to mind, with enough advertising, the positive image associated with it will come to mind as well.'
Ida Berger , professor of marketing, associate director, school of business management, Ryerson
"Animals are healers, and obviously images of them are going to have an impact. When you see an animal and it evokes a positive feeling, your endorphins are triggered and your energy changes. Animals have a lot of feelings and sensations and are very perceptive. We are all electromagnetic energy fields and respond to different stimuli. Your energy vibrates at a certain level and interacts with whatever you're looking at. We all have some form of psychic ability, and if you look at a pictures of living things, you energetically connect to those beings. You are feeling their personal energy."
SHEILA TRECARTIN , animal communicator, Bradford, Ontario
"You have noted the calming effect that the experience of cute things has on you. Beauty has the same effect, perhaps even more so, since too much cuteness can be grating, whereas the beautiful seems never to tire us. This calming aspect is key, many think, to the importance of beauty. Friedrich Schiller said that "the inevitable effect of the beautiful is freedom from passions." Some things make us happy by satisfying our desires (a chocolate bar, the Leafs scoring), but beauty doesn't work this way. This makes the experience of beauty special in a consumer-oriented culture. It isn't only that negative images stress us; even the things that make us happy involve stress, since we spend so much time and energy trying to (a) figure out exactly what we desire and (b) obtain that. Beautiful things, in contrast, make us happy in and of themselves. Beauty can actually remove us from our desires, taking us beyond our personal wants and calming the spirit."
GLENN PARSONS , assistant professor, department of philosophy, Ryerson University, Toronto
"For people who have trouble conjuring a visual image in meditation, it might be better to work with a picture to get into that place deep within themselves. Anything that creates a feeling of beauty, love, kindness, relaxation or being at one with nature or with something sweet and innocent will connect to the kindness and sweetness within us. This will facilitate healing.'
TARA NIGHT , spiritual medium and healer, Mississauga