Baby Yoda takes internet by storm

Behind the magic: Baby Yoda is an animatronic machine operated by a team of puppeteers. © Disney

Is cuteness a science? The ancient, alien sage has been reborn as an infant in a new Star Wars spin-off. One doctor says that our frenzied reaction to Baby Yoda has a scientific explanation.

A tiny puppet alien, swaddled in a child-sized Jedi robe, has melted the hearts of millions. In new Disney+ spin-off The Mandalorian, he’s called “The Child”, but fans have given him another name. It’s Baby Yoda — the cutest new addition to the Star Wars galaxy.

From his first on-screen appearance, Baby Yoda became a viral hit and the star of many memes. “I would die for Baby Yoda,” echoes from all corners of the internet.

German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who plays a bounty-hunter in the new series, cried when he saw the puppet on set. “It’s heartbreakingly beautiful,” he said in an interview.

And, now, evolutionary psychologist Dr Daniel J. Kruger thinks he can provide a scientific explanation for our frenzied response to this small, green alien.

“Across species that have parental care, we see these really common features,” says Kruger.

Fifty years ago, Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz came up with the term Kindchenschema to describe a set of “cute” facial features: a large head, big eyes, small nose and a tiny and small mouth.

It affects humans too. Studies have shown that babies with these features are more likely to receive baby talk and attention form parents than those who don’t.

Is cuteness really a science?

Baby face?

Absolutely, say some. Kindchenschema is an empirical feature that can be measured and analysed. Across species, it has an evolutionary purpose in encouraging parents to protect their offspring. The creators of Baby Yoda have simply replicated a scientific formula with particular success — and we’ve fallen for it.

But cuteness is more than just science — it’s a deeply personal emotion, insist others. Our feelings towards a being aren’t just about a head-to-eye ratio. A “cute” animal or baby stimulates a fierce rush of love and protectiveness that fills our hearts.

You Decide

  1. Is Baby Yoda cute?

Activities

  1. Draw the face of an animal with Kindchenschema features.

Some People Say...

“Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”

Yoda

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Mandalorian is the flagship show on Disney’s new streaming service Disney+, which the studio hopes will rival Netflix and Amazon Prime. In the show, Baby Yoda is being hunted by the eponymous Mandalorian bounty hunter.
What do we not know?
Star Wars fans still don’t know the name of Yoda’s species. What we do know is that the species has an exceptionally long lifespan.

Word Watch

Disney+
Disney’s new entertainment streaming platform.
Memes
A funny image, often featuring a repeated joke, that is widely shared on social media.
Bounty-hunter
A person who pursues a fugitive, hoping to get financial reward.
Evolutionary
The development of certain characteristics that help a species to survive over the course of millions of years.
Ethologist
A scientist who studies animal behaviour.
Kindchenschema
Approximately means “baby-like features” in German.
Empirical
Based on a verifiable fact in the material world.

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