When you became a parent, you probably figured it was only a matter of time before they looked at you with big puppy dog eyes and asked, “Daddy, can I have a puppy?” Well, new research not only suggests that you’re right (it’s all but inevitable), it’s even identified when it’s likely to happen: Sometime between 3 and 6 years old.
The study, recently published in Frontiers In Psychology, looked to build on the generally accepted theory that adults are drawn to faces — human, animal, it don’t matter — with baby-like features. Because this is science “baby-like features” are pretty specific: round in shape, high in foreheads, big eyes, small noses, and adorable, tiny mouths. Researchers have known for decades that such features trigger a caregiving response in adults and wanted to determine if that’s learned or instinctual. So they took 82 kids and showed them sets of images of human, dog, and cat faces, with one image in the set an adult face and the other image manipulated to make that original more baby-like. Then they tracked some of the kids’ eyes while they looked at the images and conducted interviews with others to determine which they preferred. As with adults, cute wins the day with kids (and puppies won the day over kittens).
This response in adults makes evolutionary sense — it ensures that humans care for their offspring. The fact that kids show the same tendency strongly suggests it’s hardwired human behavior, but it absolutely proves one thing: You’re going to have to buy your kid a puppy.