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Blog Post #6: Smart Things

When I was very young, I read the Raggedy Ann (and Andy) stories by Johnny Gruelle over and over again. My grandmother made a Raggedy Ann doll for me. The doll was exactly my size, and one Halloween, I borrowed her dress to go trick-or-treating as Raggedy Ann. I was fascinated by the idea that my toys might walk and talk and live when I wasn’t around. Now, I am rediscovering the Raggedy Ann stories with my daughter, who loves them, too, and while I still find them charming, I also find them a little bit horrifying. Because I remember the vague guilt I would sometimes feel when, after days of forgetting she existed, I would discover my Raggedy Ann squashed (trapped) in the bottom of a container of toys, and in a fit of remorse, I would throw her tea parties and take her everywhere for a week or two before forgetting about her once again.

In her essay, “The Dream of Intelligent Robot Friends,” Carla Diana seems to welcome the possibility of smart objects that could respond to and interact with us:

The tools for meaningful digital-physical integration are finally accessible, but it’s still a messy challenge to get them all to work together in a meaningful way. Dreaming about robots is a bit like dreaming about finding strangers who will understand you completely upon first meeting. With the right predisposition, the appropriate context for a social exchange, and enough key info to grab onto, you and a stranger can hit it off right away, but without those things, the experience can be downright awful. Since we’ve got a lot more to understand when it comes to programming engagement and understanding, the robot of my dreams is unlikely to be commercially available any time soon, but with the right tools and data we can come pretty close.

I admit to being a technophile, like Diana. Robots, though, especially the kinds of robots she has helped to design, or the Kismet robot designed by MIT labs, evoke in me feelings of unease as well as fascination. As with the Raggedy Ann doll of my childhood, the potential “smart things” of our future raise for me the spectre of sentient objects, things that might resent us when we’re neglectful, things that might rebel if we treat them in ways they don’t like. Some scientists who work in artificial intelligence posit that things can be “smart”–that is capable of advanced human-like behavior–without being conscious or self-aware. If that’s the case, then arguably, we could have intelligent robots who aren’t bothered by their working conditions.

Yet, should feeling empathy with or responsibility toward things be dependent on a perception of those things as “intelligent” or “conscious”? For example, many of us go out of our way to avoid causing harm to animals, or plants, or even bodies of water or geologic resources. Why is it normal, even encouraged, to care for some objects but not others? How might our attitude to things like smart phones or robots be transformed if we could interact with them–and they could respond like–our pets or our friends? Would we be required to rethink the implicit ethics that guide our everyday interactions with things?

Some religions, such as the Japanese religion of shinto, posit a world in which inanimate objects are a manifestation of or are animated by living, spiritual forces. Environmentalists and animal rights activists often make compelling arguments that all living things have an equal right to existence, and that human needs and concerns must always be balanced against that right. To the extent we may develop smart objects that tend to blur the line between living beings and contrivances of inert matter, might we find ethical guidance about dealing with such smart things in religion or philosophy? Or should that guidance come from somewhere else? Or, maybe, are all of these discursive systems or intellectual disciplines potentially relevant?

Carefully read Diana’s essay, and use that piece and some of the resources linked in this prompt as a starting point for some quick research. Combine a web search with a search of the library’s eJournals, looking for resources that might help us understand the ethical systems that govern human/object interactions. Craft a post that summarizes the results of your research and provides links or citations to useful resources.

Posting: Group 2

Commenting: Group 1

Category: Smart Things

In your Blog #6 post, you should do more than offer a list of source summaries. Rather, you should frame the summary of your research, as a cohesive response to a research question that is posed or suggested by this prompt. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog as they’ve been outlined in the Blog Project Description.

Feature Image: “Forgotten 80/365” by Marcy Leigh on Flickr.

Blog 5: What contemporary objects can be both a tool and a weapon?

With the help of technology, each and every contemporary object can be both a tool and a weapon. Distinguishing between a tool and a weapon, simply put, is a matter of function and intent. In my opinion, this is an interesting topic because of the gray area that exists between the two. John Cline uses the example of the iphone, which seems to be, these days, the symbol of technology in the 21st century as an example of an object that may be used as weapon. While I agree with Cline, I must go a step further: Every contemporary object can be both a tool and a weapon.

In elementary school, my classmates and I were rather fond of rubber band balls. We would collect all the rubber band balls we could find and stretch them around each other until we possessed a bouncing ball. It was the perfect disguise for us. During school hours, we were innocent school children being creative, but after school… it was all out war. When the last bell of the day rang, and we were released to walk home, those rubber bands were unwound, stretched back as far as they could go, and released at the nearest ten-year-old boy we could find. Occasionally, if you thought you could recover your ball, you would just throw the whole thing at your friend’s head.

Did our teacher know that the simple tool she used to group pencils with was being used as weapons after school? If she did, she sure put on a good show after a parent found us out and notified her. Mrs. Hatch yelled at us for what felt like 30 minutes, and needless to say, we never received another rubber band.

What was the difference between the rubber band balls we made in class and the rubber bands we flung at each other? We changed the rubber bands function and intent. Any contemporary object can be used as weapon with the right amount of creativity. For instance, a book is a simple tool for learning, but let Clayton Kershaw throw it at you, and I guarantee the next time you see him with a book in his hand, you will perceive it as a weapon.

In Oculomotor Examination of the Weapon Focus Effect: Does a Gun Automatically Engage Visual Attention?, Heather D. Flowe, Lorraine Hope, and Anne P. Hillstrom explore the notion of a person being less likely remembered if they appear in a visual seen with a gun. They conclude: “An image of a gun did not engage attention to a larger extent than images of other types of objects (i.e., a pocket watch or tomato). The results suggest that context may be an important determinant of WFE. The extent to which an object is threatening may depend on the larger context in which it is presented.”


But, Why is this? In my opinion, when people see a gun, they perceive fear and the only thing they are worried about is safety. This isn’t the case with all contemporary tools. While many contemporary tools have the ability to be used as weapon, the tool actually being a weapon is a matter of one’s perception of its function and intent.




Blog Post #4 Detached Understanding

I think we definitely study objects more often for stories about humans who used them rather than studying objects as autonomous things. Studying them for insight about humans asks and answers more questions. It seems that dissecting an item as an independant thing answers the question of how it was used, while dissecting that same item to determine the human motive behind it can answer who made it, who used it, how they used it, and why it was used.

Lepawsky and Mather present an interesting idea, one that Deetz touched on in his book. Late in the article by Lepawsky and Mather they comment on the effort to recycle the defunct CRTs that may be completed in the year two-thousand fifty, if that is what is meant by the “waste stream”. That means if all CRTs will be used for renewable materials, then our history will be wiped of any physical evidence of them. It is hypothetical because it may be impossible to get a hold of every one of the monitors ever invented. Of course there are methods to identify these things, like pictures in Lepawsky’s and Mather’s article, and the methods Deetz describes, but if the history of objects made by humans ties into human’s own history there may be a disjoint in the narrative establishing a relationship that encompasses all the nuances in the objects.

After I read the article and prompt I started thinking about why it is that we place ourselves as the subjects in discourses under the social science umbrella and how it relates to the readings we’ve done so far. It only seems logical that we import ourselves over the objects because they are our creations. We can’t take claim for the sun and moon or processes in the brain or natural formations on the earth – did we create mathematics or just explain it? But we do have ownership over objects made by us. When we reclaim objects we have lost a story of how our ancestors reacted to the world can be discovered.

If we destroy a class of objects we are destroying the tangible story that accompanied those items. Lets say that someday the CRTs no longer exist, we can study the pictures, diagram the dimensions, read the literature, but that doesn’t seem, in my mind, to grasps the whole story. I remember watching Tyra Banks wear a padded suit in participation of a social experiment about the treatment of overweight people. She wore the suit for an afternoon going about her daily business in New York or Los Angeles, and nobody knew who she was. Attached to her suit were cameras to capture the expressions on people’s faces as they walked by or interacted with her. She ended the experiment by making remarks that she felt everyone judging her and so on. The experiment was good for social awareness, but the whole time I was watching I couldn’t help but smack my teeth about Tyra’s revelations: she will never truly know what it is like to be the weight she portrayed. It reminds me of an Oscar winning period piece about the Victorian Era, although those involved have done due diligence, I just don’t buy totally replicating that era.

I say this because there are real subtle nuances to the objects we reclaim. Yes, there are very thorough papers and accounts and books about the histories of objects but we can never capture a true understanding of what the world was like from where those objects came. So, if we recycle every last CRT (or any other item) we can lose a piece to better understanding a time we are not from and mindset we do not have. I guess that is why we have museums.

Blog Post #4: Objects: Reincarnated or Just Reinstated?

As an ardent antiquer, I appreciate the old, the abandoned, and the recycled. Antiques are mostly timeless, however some may tarnish or rust, but these objects degenerate slower than humans do. Objects are not mortal, but they are not immortal either, a portion are doomed to sit in warehouses for their eternity, like the Cathode Ray Tubes in Lepawsky and Mather’s essay, A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube’s Strange Afterlife. I find comfort in their suggestion that “If burial is not an ending, perhaps we can rejoice in recycling?” Although invalidated in Lepawksy and Mather’s essay due to the futility of the CRT, it is possible that we may be able to recycle other inanimate victims of obsolescence.

It is scary but solid to think that our possessions may outlive us—this conception spawns an image of my crumbling skeletal remains atop a glossy, unblemished iPhone 57. However, if objects are so lasting, why do our narrative histories favor the human subject? It is plausible that we elevate human agency because we are proud, and elevate our memories and feelings above the earthly objects which we create and own. Our narratives may incorporate the use of an object as a symbol, or a children’s novel may anthropomorphize and personify a toothbrush, ascribing it feelings, relationships, but objects will never be able to feel things or love; that is why it is difficult to include objects into our narrative histories. Even so, it may be easier to assimilate with objects in a biographical narrative because “[b]iographical objects, like souvenirs and memorabilia, are both tangible parts of our past as well as of our present because of the feelings and images with which they are invested or that they are able to evoke. They act as proof of the narratives through which we fashion the self and our past” (Albano 17).

Also, in Caterina Albano’s essay, Displaying lives: the narrative of objects in biographical exhibitions she writes, “[t]he recognition of an object as the embodiment of an intrinsic truth that substantiates the writing of natural and cultural history suggests the cultural significance of objects as tangible links between the past and the present, between reality and its articulation as narrative systems, whether social, economic, or cultural-historical” (17). Thus, objects are simultaneous representatives of the past and of the present. Things have a creation or “birth”, a life, where they are used in daily functions, and also an afterlife, which may include recycling, conservation, or even reuse, therefore linking the past and the present and allowing the object to live again. Objects are not reincarnated, they are reinstated.

Blog Post #4: Old Things

What is the difference between studying objects to learn human stories and studying them to learn their own stories? Is there one? In “Recalling Things Forgotten” and “Parting Ways,” Deetz presents us with human histories that have been recovered through careful analyses of objects and building sites. To an extent, Prown, Czikszentmihalyi, and Belk, although they draw upon knowledge and methodologies from a wide variety of disciplines, nonetheless seem to approach their studies of material culture with a goal similar to Deetz’s.

As it begins, however, the essay, “A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube’s Strange Afterlife,” by Josh Lepawsky and Charles Mather, seems to offer a different sort of teleology, or aim, for its analysis:

“Rust in peace,” ministered the New York Times in its 2009 catalogue of obsolescence for the aughts. The obvious play on words conjoins an industrial mythos with a Christian burial rite in a requiem for an object that had, not long before, been the primary screen on which many of us experienced television, video, and computing. What does it mean that we think of the CRT as something with a life—something that was born, lived, died?

In its title and with its three opening paragraphs, the essay promises to give us a history of the object itself. It provokes us with a question, about what it means to think of inanimate things as having a birth, a life, and afterlife. Yet, from that question, the essay seems to turn in the fourth paragraph quickly back to a relatively conventional history, not of the object, but of the people who created and used it, beginning with two 17th century intellectuals, Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle. After that turn, it’s not until the eleventh paragraph in the essay that we get a chunk of text organized almost entirely around exposition of non-human agency, alternating between copper and the CRT itself as the subject or actor of nearly every sentence. Continue reading Blog Post #4: Old Things

Blog Post #3: How To Live Forever

Death: It’s a Human Condition

Celebration TraditionLast night, I kept a tradition and sang, “Happy Birthday,” to an empty chair that should contain my would-be 7-year-old son. Following an emotional night, I subsequently attended the funeral of my son’s friend, a brave 7-year-old boy also taken too soon. Death and the reminder of mortality surrounded me as I prepared this blog post.

Everlasting Molds

U.S. Coins

Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and even Beethoven from Luke A. Fidler’s essay, “Impressions From the Face of a Corpse,” have something in common: immortality. Although U.S. coins featuring dead presidents are not of human bone or flesh worthy for cabinets of curiosity, they could be collected if deemed rare. Additionally, Americans almost daily handle these inanimate objects, depicting the face of the deceased in the palm of their hands and exchange them freely, without a given thought.

Death masks, however, are vastly different than that of embedded faces on metal because they are “impressions from the face of a corpse.”  There are many myths mentioned in Fidler’s essay behind this popular ritual of the dead, dating back to Alexander the Great, “thanks to the assumption that it was a portrait par excellence.

Hand Molds Comparable to the three-dimensional molds taken of the face of a corpse, many bereaved parents cast their dead child’s hands or feet immediately proceeding death.

“Do This In Remembrance Of Me”

 The rituals I created to remember my spunky son are all done to help me cope; thus rituals and traditions are established by the living as a way to grieve our survival. Objects left behind by loved ones are cherished and to evoke memories not to be forgotten. Similar to Belk’s claim, “people seek to assure that their selves will extend beyond their deaths,” I seek to keep my son’s “self” alive through photographs, traditions, toys he left behind, his sister, myself, and, of course, the foundation established in his name.

Something neglected to be mentioned in Fidler’s essays is the belief that death masks were made as an object of reflection to remember a lost loved one. In contrast, when Christians manifested, they considered a corpse to be impure and therefore, rituals for the deceased did not occur until after the growth of the religion. The prominent ritual of Christians is that of Holy Communion (Also known as The Eucharist or transubstantiation) whereby the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is symbolically ingested.

Eat His Death

 As you’re waiting for this food, you may hear a voice saying, “Don’t look now, but you’re in this thing pretty deep. You could end up as a corpse, as dead as Jesus.”

Hence, this is where the controversy lies among many and question if the elements of bread and wine indeed “miraculously change” to the Body and Blood of Christ.  Through transubstantiation, a supernatural form of Endocannibalism, Christ lives forever.

In comparison of the Christian’s ritual, eating death is taken literally in other cultures. For instance, in the British-Isles, bread is placed on top of the deceased for a period of time and then consumed by a “sin-eater” for an insulting “fee of sixpence.” It is believed that in doing this, the sins of the deceased would be passed to the bread from the corpse, which would ultimately destroy those sins by ingestion.

Painful Sorrow

The emotions of mourning the loss of a loved one can be described as painful but for the Dani Tribe from Papua, Indonesia, it is also a physical pain. Tribe members would cut off the tips of their fingers “as a way of displaying their grief at funeral ceremonies [and] symbolizing the suffering and pain due to the loss of a loved one.” This could also function as continuous reminder of the loved one lost (as if the devastation from the loss itself isn’t enough). Thankfully, this ritual is no longer practiced.

“Ashes to Ashes”

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” ~Genesis 3:19

Trinket of Ashes My son was cremated and I have a locket that holds some of his ashes. Many view this trinket as morbid and/or eerie. To me, however, this is a manner to keep him constantly with me. And his foundation is, hopefully, the way he will live forever.  Ensuring his memory will go on is a vital comfort as my life on Earth continues.

Blog Post 3: Death Then and Death Now

From the moment I was able to understand the term ‘death’ up to now, I was always appalled and frightened every time I just heard the word. The cause of me to react like that is probably the death of my grandmother when I was six years old. My grandmother and I always had a special relationship. Maybe it was because I was the oldest son of her youngest son, or maybe it was because she knew how long she would be with us in this world. Who knows? All I know is that although I was only six years old, I knew what was going on when I was at her funeral with my parents and other family members. My beloved grandmother was no longer with us. Of course there were many more funerals I had to attend in the past several years, but I’m sure the death of my grandmother left me the trauma I still have today, or I should say the trauma I used to have.

After reading Fidler’s Impressions From the Face of a Corpse, I learned a few positive things about death to help overcome my fear. In his essay, Fidler asserts that “the death mask is something between a creepy portrait and a contact relic,” that “it’s an uncanny object, one that spurs us to reconsider the matter of portraiture and commemoration. To ask why or how a death mask works is to probe a maelstrom that makes mock of sure footing. But what if the thing that makes a death mask tick is not the resemblance to someone long-dead, but rather the visual noise, static, and imperfections that halt that resemblance in its tracks?”

Even to this point, I didn’t have a complete understanding of what the quote meant. However, after reading that “phrenologists sought them out as teaching tools, and taught students to read worlds into the bumps and grooves of cheekbones and foreheads,” and “artists incorporated death masks into commemorative busts, such as that made of Napoleon I by Francois Carlo Antommarchi,” along with what was revealed within Napoleon’s and Beethoven’s masks in the following paragraphs, I had a better understanding. Not only was I fascinated at the fact that we humans have advanced so much in coming up with these theories and ideas, and even went beyond science in order to learn more about the kind of people who are long-dead are, but also had a better understanding of the different perspectives from different societies, and the different purposes of the masks. I learned that death masks aren’t just commemorative items, nor are they unwanted reminders of grotesque things that we don’t want to remember, but they are some kind of portal that leads us to a better understanding, a clearer knowledge of the person, who the mask belongs to.

Cuteness: An Internet and Cultural Remora

The appeal of cuteness is ubiquitous.  Derek Willis calls cat pictures “the essential building block of the internet.”  Cuteness is that inescapable quality that makes adults turn into silly, blubbering rubberneckers of babies with villainous eyebrows drawn on, tiny elephants, memes with baby hippopotami, and the infamous Lil Bub.

In “The Powerful Authority of Cute Animals”, Beatrice Marovich, argues that talismanic objects, both living and inanimate, “confer a kind of expedient magic that humans can use for their individual or collective benefit.”  Marovich elucidates many cultural phenomena that stem from our penchant for cute things; I want to focus on the concept that cuteness is an inherent quality in nature and the physiological response that we innately encounter when presented with cuteness.

That benefit Marovich describes ties in well with the research from Kringelbach and Stein of Oxford University, which suggests an evolutionary reason for our being drawn toward cuteness: preservation of our own species.

A 2008 study of human brain waves when confronted with “cute” images of human babies provoked an identical response with parents, and non-parents; study of frontal-lobe brain activity suggests that there is a response to this “cuteness” that is unique to the images of babies– images of adults provoked no such response. They suggest that this is a Darwinian evolutionary mechanism wherein adults feel responsible for the care of young.

Not only do adults seem to be hardwired towards a psychic response to cuteness, but also, according to research published in Psychology Frontier Journal in July, 2014, children as young as 3 have the ability to perceive cuteness.  So adults and children both have an innate mechanism that senses inherent cuteness.

So where does cuteness and our study of objects intersect?  The ability of toddlers to perceive cuteness leads to the concept that cuteness is not something culturally manufactured, but a quality inherent in nature.  The dilemma comes with the human invention of synthetic cuteness.

Made-made versions of cuteness transform an abstract quality into anobject, the subject of our ongoing discussion as it pertains to material culture.

Once cuteness crosses the objectified threshold from abstract quality to manufactured experience, we face a new dilemma, in that we may have trouble ever returning to the concept of abstraction.  In the face of technology, the line between inherent and manufactured cuteness all but disappears: the natural cuteness of a kitten or a baby becomes objectified as a video taken on a smartphone and uploaded to America’s Funniest Videos, and no longer merely “exists” in a passive sense, but exists now dually as an object and a quality.

So whether it’s in our DNA to appreciate cuteness or that we’re living in an environment where cuteness is a marketing ploy, the undeniable reality of the situation is that we’re inundated with this object and this abstraction.


Works Cited

Borgi, M., Cogliati-Dezza, I., Brelsford, V., Meints, K., Cirulli, F.: Baby schema in human and animal faces induces cuteness perception and gaze allocation in children: Frontiers in Psychology 5:411. DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00411

“Identifying The Cuteness Response?.” Psychologist 21.5 (2008): 372-373. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 5 Sept. 2014.

Marovich, Beatrice. The Powerful Authority of Cute Animals.  The Atlantic. 14 May 2014. 05 September 2014. Web.

University of Lincoln. “Children as young as three recognize ‘cuteness’ in faces of people, animals.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2014.<>.

Willis, Derek.  What the Internet Can See From Your Cat Pictures. The Upshot, The New York Times.  22 July 2014. 05 September 2014. Web.

A Very Thin Line

Marovich observes that cuteness may be caused by an objects vacuity and humans’ ability to manipulate that space. It seems that what is cute can be determined by what can be controlled and has no power to act upon us. The Hello Kitty doll in Marovich’s essay is a great example of a completely innocuous object that does not hold any type of power, but can act as a vessel for the power that we give it.

On the other hand an object that is not cute, or is unsettling, is an objects that acts upon us, rather than the other way around. Noel Carroll examines what classifies things as unsettling in his paper The Nature of Horror. Although he discusses horror in film he uses academic research about horror and unsettling things to back up his claims. He states that horrific things cause emotional and physical (crawling skin) agitations. Rather than the object acting like a mirror as Marovich states about cute things, horrifying or unsettling things have properties about them that conjures beliefs within us.

But what determines cuteness seems a little more difficult to pin down than what determines horrific and unsettling things. It seems that what is cute often takes on human qualities; Hello Kitty was recently revealed to be a little girl (which I think is uncanny). Cuteness may also be attributed to the vulnerability or innocence of the object, like a newborn child. Maybe the ability of an object to act as if it has its own agency, but actually doesn’t — like the chihuahua described in Marovich essay — can also determine cuteness.

Let me return to Carroll’s essay for a bit, he identifies unsettling things as “impure and unclean.. . .putrid or mouldering things. . .from oozing places” (Carroll 54). He also states that these things, or how we think of these things, are made of dead or rotting flesh and we associate unsettling things with disease and vermin. Because we can be repulsed by it, vomit can be classified as something unsettling; but look at the differences between the videos of cats vomiting (Sorry. Gross, I know):

This at the :28 mark

as opposed to this at the :20 mark

Why is it that we can accept the first one but the second, not so much, when they are essentially doing the same thing?

At one time, my sister wanted a Volkswagen Beetle. When I asked why, she responded that it was cute. I didn’t continue the conversation but I guessed she thought it was cute because it was a comparatively small car. But this cuteness is different than, lets say, a little girl’s miniature tea set; the tea set may invoke memories of being a little girl or raising one. My sister never owned a Beetle and can’t possibly have any attachment to it like the affection towards the tea set. But she can impose her own belief, in objectifying the car, as to how she would be seen if she did drive a Beetle.

If we see a young girl playing with a tea set we may say it was cute, but what if we ran into a grown man playing, just as genuinely, with that same tea set? Would the tea set still be cute or did its association with the grown man degrade its cuteness.  Like the videos above, if those were the same cats at different ages would the second be more cute due to that relation?

Because my sister has gotten older and her taste has changed, she no longer cares for the Beetle. If I asked her if it was cute she’d probably respond with indifference; the car is neither cute or un-cute. There are a lot of psychological and sociological mechanisms to both cute and unsettling things that I can’t begin to understand. 

Blog Post #2: Why Cute is Captivating and Unnattractive is Unpleasant

Cute things most definitely have an inherent quality or power which makes them enticing and captivating to humans. Beatrice Marovich’s article, “The Powerful Authority of Cute Animals” suggests “that there’s something in this alleged power that seems to leave animals vulnerable to becoming talismanic”(Marovich 4). Society’s domestication and reliance on animals has moved us to associate positive, cheerful, and safe thoughts with our pets—making them forever cuddly and cute. I believe part of our human attraction to cuteness can be contributed to the instinctive human desire to nurture and protect the innocent. When encountering something which is young, harmless, and pure, we as humans are instantaneously transferred to a state of guardianship and delight. We are sensitive to cute things because they invoke our own sensitive feelings. In this way, our designation of an object as cute is could exist as a result of propelling of our own identity and desires outward.

In Gergana Y. Nenkov and Maura L. Scott’s article, “’So Cute I Could Eat it Up’: Priming Effects of Cute Products on Indulgent Consumption” they state that “cuteness leads to behavioral carefulness , as one is primed to protect and care for a vulnerable and innocent entity”(Nenkov and Scott 3). But, why is it also possible for us to ascribe qualities of cuteness to inanimate objects as well? We cannot fully protect a stuffed representation of an elephant, because it is not alive and never has been. Yet a stuffed animal may be deemed as a cute child’s toy, perhaps because it is a representation of something that is a live, and has been anthropomorphized.

As humans it is easy for us to associate cute things with giggles and pleasure, yet the grotesque can appear automatically averse to us and is associated with negative things like gagging or fear. This could be due in part to the conventionally shallow ideal that the exterior of an object is bound to match the interior. Eerie creatures may give us the creeps because we assume them to be evil or threatening, due to their repugnant looks. We can internally designate things as cute or not cute depending on our own needs and fears, so “cute stimuli prime mental representations of fun, which leads to an enhanced focus on approaching self-rewards…”(Nenkov and Scott 4). Cute things are captivating in that they represent charm and gratification for us; unattractive things are unsightly for us—visually and also emotionally due to their links to unpleasantness.