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A Neuroscientist Explains Why You Can't Help But Love Kittens

These little monsters domesticated themselves!

By Inverse Video
on

Ph.D. neuroscience candidate Shannon Odell is back for the season finale of Your Brain on Blank, and this time she’s going for broke. It’s the much-requested kitten episode, and that’s something that can’t be taken lightly.

Shannon helps us to better understand domestic cats, or Felis silvestris if you’re fancy, by delving into how house cats came into existence. According to an article in Science in 2007, cats domesticated themselves when they discovered that living in tandem with humans was extremely beneficial to their survival. Why go out into the wilderness to hunt when you can have your food brought to you by unsuspecting humans?

Cats also outperform other cats in the critical metric of most popular household pet, only losing the war to freshwater fish — which is probably because a freshwater fish is one step up from a rock on the low-maintenance pet ladder.

But the real question that needs to be answered is this: What is it about kittens that makes us love them so much? Well, it’s most likely because of baby schema, the same mechanism that makes us love babies so much.

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The human brain is wired to take care of infants — the livelihood of the species depends on it — and as a result, that wiring is very strong and easily triggered to avoid any false negatives. If your brain took a look at a baby, for instance, and classified it as “not a baby” because it was ugly, that would probably lead to a beautiful batch of short-lived humans. Instead, our brains classify a lot of things as babies, like kittens. These furbabies have trojan-horsed their way into our brains by looking similar to human babies. It’s not like they did it on purpose or anything, but they certainly benefit from the confusion.

Shannon also reveals some mind-blowing facts about kittens’ purring, their preferences for women over men, and their overall attitude towards people. (Spoiler: It’s actually pretty heartwarming.)

Check out the whole episode for about five minutes of the cutest cat footage you’re gonna see on Inverse, and a whole bunch of facts about the brain.


This episode was made possible only with the help of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and we’d like to highlight their Meow for Now campaign.

5 Biohack Items Worth Buying On Amazon

You don't have to be a biologist to hack your own systems. Here's how to get started.

Biohacking is a relatively new term that can mean everything from messing with your diet and lifestyle so you feel and look better to installing implants to hack your own hardware. We are not into that last one, which seems more suited to a dystopian novel than to Inverse. But we are down with anything that helps us function better, feel better, fit into our clothes with fewer regrets, and generally live life happier. We are all about the first one.

Hack Your Way to Hydration

Let's be real, getting 64 ounces a day can be hard.

Everyone knows that the best way to stay hydrated is to, you know, simply drink water. The general rule of thumb is that on average you should be drinking 64-ounces of water or eight 8-ounce glasses per day (although the exact number is dependent upon your weight). But knowing that you should drink that much water and actually doing it are two different things. Not everyone likes drinking water because it’s normally tasteless and plain—and alternatives like sports drinks, juices and sodas are loaded with sugar. But there’s a way to get your legit water intake and make it tastier, too.

Melting Continental Glaciers Remain a World-Flooding Enigma

"The potential contributions of ice sheets remain the largest source of uncertainty."

Research released this week uncovers a situation that’s far worse than we thought. Scientists have seriously underestimated just how much water will melt off continent-sized glaciers, aka ice sheets, that are shrinking because of Earth’s increasingly hot atmosphere. The news opens a set of bigger questions facing scientists: How severe will sea level rise become by the end of the 21st century?

Video Shows How "Drunk Munchies" Are the Scientific Consequence of a Night Out

It's a vicious, delicious cycle.

It’s Saturday night, baby. You’ve had two or three or seven drinks, you’re not sure, you lost count. You had a good night (you danced briefly with that cute girl who always wears acid-washed overalls before they realized you weren’t someone else), but it’s coming to a close and you’re fast approaching your apartment in an Uber. You pass by a blurry blue and purple sign that can be none other than a Taco Bell. You are overcome by the munchies. They are undeniable and, in this moment, stronger than your common sense. You leap out of the moving car and roll safely to the sidewalk. You dust yourself off and stumble into the lobby. Cheesy Gordita Crunch Town, USA, here you come.

'Big Bang Theory' Finale: A Real Physicist Backs Up Its "Imperfect" Science

'Big Bang Theory' was to physics what 'CSI' was to forensics.

By Adilson Motter
on
Filed Under Stephen Hawking

After 12 successful seasons, The Big Bang Theory has finally come to a fulfilling end, concluding its reign as the longest running multi-camera sitcom on TV.

If you’re one of the few who haven’t seen the show, this CBS series centers around a group of young scientists defined by essentially every possible stereotype about nerds and geeks. The main character, Sheldon (Jim Parsons), is a theoretical physicist. He is exceptionally intelligent, but also socially unconventional, egocentric, envious, and ultra-competitive. His best friend, Leonard (Johnny Galecki), is an experimental physicist, who, although more balanced, also shows more fluency with quantum physics than with ordinary social situations.