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German ("small child pattern") expression coined by Austrian ethologist and Nobel prize winner Konrad Lorenz to describe the fact that there seems to be a visual pattern to which young specimen of all mammals and some other animals adhere, that this pattern is instinctively recognizable across species and that it acts as a key stimulus triggering protective behaviour. The Kindchenschema consists of:
  • Large size of the head in relation to the rest of the body
  • Rounded skull and salient front
  • Big eyes, placed below the middle line of the skull
  • Round and oversized cheeks, small nose
  • Short, chubby and rounded members
A more colloquial and shorter expression would be cuteness, but the main points here are that
  • The pattern works across species, causing humans to consider puppies and kittens adorable and dogs to tolerate human children in contexts where they would attack an adult.
  • The positive reactions are, at least to some degree genetically "programmed" and not a learned social behaviour.
Obviously the Kindchenschema serves an evolutionary purpose within a species, though this does not explain why the pattern doesn't seem to diverge between different species - evolutionally, it is not an advantage for a species to feel protective towards young ones of a different species.

Another interesting aspect is that the Kindchenschema also bleeds over into general beauty standards, as seen in the babyfaceness phenomenon: modifying images of adult women by altering proportions towars the Kindchenschema causes these images to be considered more attractive by over 90% of all people who were shown the images, male or female.

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