Adaptation in Action: Kinderschema… the good, the bad, the ugly.

There’s no doubt that cute animals get A LOT of attention. Puppies are the best. Kittens are adorable too. Infant orang-utans with their huge eyes, crazy baby hair, and boundless curiosity tug on our heartstrings for love and affection.

Kinderschema (that set of characteristics that determine “cuteness” and trigger our human care taking instincts, we discussed in our last post: most definitely influences our attention when it comes to caring about other animals.

But how does this impact our perception of animals?

“The Good”: The tendency to want to care for adorable animals can be extremely beneficial when it comes to finding a connection that leads to conservation and/or non-invasive scientific research. If we feel a connection, we pay attention; we appreciate an adorable animal more and find ways to protect them.

“The Bad”: The flip side to this, of course, is that less attractive and less charismatic animals tend to be overlooked. In fact, research suggests that even scientific studies tend to be skewed toward more adorable animals, leaving uglier creatures (species who may actually be most in need of scientific research and preservation efforts) ignored.

“The Ugly”: But there is an even darker side lurking in the shadows when it comes to the effects of kinderschema and our tendency to pay attention to adorable animals....

Each year millions of ‘exotic’ animals are taken from their natural habitats and sold around the world to live in homes as pets, feeding a thriving illegal trade in wildlife. Some of this trade is legal, but more often animals are illegally captured from the wild to supply a growing demand for exotic pets.

People have kept exotic pets throughout history, so why has the demand for unique and adorable creatures exploded in recent years?

More on that in tomorrow's post….