It is basically impossible to feel anything but happy when you see a baby in glasses. Go ahead and test it out: We bet you'll feel awash with delight the second you stick some spectacles on a baby—and it turns out there are some scientific explanations for that reaction.
If there's anyone who could explain this, it's Joshua Paul Dale, co-editor of the book The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness and a professor of "cute studies" at Tokyo Gakugei University. As he tells The Cut's Science of Us, the image of little babies wearing oversized glasses provokes a joyful response for a number of reasons.
For one, big eyes are among the six schema ("kinderschema") identified by ethologist Konrad Lorenz in the 1940s that make up the most lovable physical traits in babies. (The others include chubby cheeks and a rounded body shape, which, can confirm, are also adorable.) By putting glasses on a baby, Dale says you are getting the illusion of big eyes—or further exaggerating that already irresistible trait.
And as mounting evidence shows, that cuteness isn't an accident. Rather, it seems to be an evolutionary tool that intends to give parents added incentive to take care of their young. Beyond hunting and gathering food, Dale says the inherent cuteness in babies seems to inspire adults to help them socialize with baby talk or peekaboo.
This relates to glasses because, as Dale says, that makes it all but impossible to stop yourself from talking to the baby. "We may see the glasses as a signal that the baby wants to reach out and engage with us, which is a fundamental part of the appeal that all cute objects make."
Or there's the straight-forward explanation that a baby in glasses is adorable because it's unexpected. Just like when videos of baby sloths in pajamas go viral, Dale says people are always seeking new things to put in the category of "Isn't that precious?!" He adds, "We can consider glasses on a baby to be something novel and unexpected that creates a new category of cute things to enjoy."
If you think a cute baby + ordinary old glasses somehow makes for an extremely cute baby, Dale explains the math of that equation: "The fact that glasses are a rather oppositional elemen[t]—in that they connote adult behavior and mien, such as deep thought and that fact that we're used to thinking that eyes weaken with age—ends up adding to the baby's overall cuteness rather than subtracting from it."
There you have it—a very good reminder to schedule that pediatric optometrist appointment.