Posts Tagged ‘Stumbling on Happiness’

Why They are so Cute

May 16, 2008

Cute, aren't they?

Mencius, a Chinese contemporary of Aristotle, was fond of the following parable: No matter how evil a person is, the sight of a baby about to fall into a well will distress him. Mencius’ anecdote is meant to show that human beings are innately good, but it works just as well as an illustration of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. If there are some people who find babies cute, lovable, and precious, and some other people who are indifferent to the wellbeing of babies, which group is more likely to have surviving descendants? After a few generations, there wouldn’t be any indifferent people left.

In Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness there is an anecdote about love for children. Although most parents believe that having children made them happier, studies which periodically question parents show that marital satisfaction suffers while children are being reared, only to return to premarital levels after children leave the household. Once again, people who believe that children make a person happy are more likely to have descendants, so this belief is ingrained in our genes and/or culture.

Don’t roll your eyes at your host’s decision to display a flower pot baby coffee table book. The decision was entirely genetic.