The New York Times once called cat pictures an “essential building block of the Internet”– and now we know why. Humans are hard-wired to identify cuteness. A new study finds that infants will gaze longer at pictures of cats, babies, and dogs that were manipulated to have a “large head and a round face, a high and protruding forehead, large eyes, and a small nose and mouth.”
Interest was quantified with eye-tracking technology that could measure how long infants looked at a particular image. The picture above shows the subtle differences in eyes, forehead, and mouth that can make something worthy of rapt attention or casual dismissal.