Joshua Paul Dale Irresistible: How Cuteness Wired our Brains and Conquered the World


Code 9781800818255
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A BBC Radio 4 'Book of the Week'

Why are some things cute, and others not? What happens to our brains when we see something cute? And how did cuteness go global, from Hello Kitty to Disney characters?

Cuteness is an area where culture and biology get tangled up. Seeing a cute animal triggers some of the most powerful psychological instincts we have - the ones that elicit our care and protection - but there is a deeper story behind the broad appeal of Japanese cats and saccharine greetings cards.

Joshua Paul Dale, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of cuteness studies, explains how the cute aesthetic spread around the globe, from pop brands to Lolita fashion, kids' cartoons and the unstoppable rise of Hello Kitty. Irresistible delves into the surprisingly ancient origins of Japan's kawaii culture, and uncovers the cross-cultural pollination of the globalised world. Understanding the psychology of cuteness can help answer some of the biggest questions in evolutionary history and the mysterious origins of animal domestication.

This is the fascinating cultural history of cuteness, and a revealing look at how our most powerful psychological impulses have remade global style and culture.

About the Author

Joshua Paul Dale is a Professor in the Department of English Literature and Culture at Chuo University in Tokyo. Since moving to Japan in the 1990s, Dale has pioneered the field of cuteness studies, and is the co-editor of The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness, and edited Cute Studies, a special issue of The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture. Dale has been featured as an expert on cuteness by media outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, National Geographic, the Guardian, The Cut, Refinery29 and Discover Magazine.

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'A layer cake of cultural history and developmental biology ... peculiarly charming ... with such a wealth of examples to consider, cute studies has only just begun. There's plenty more to see, and plenty to wave a glow stick at'
- Daily Telegraph

'[A] fascinating exploration of what it means to be cute, and why we love cute things'
- Charlotte Runcie, Sunday Telegraph

'Our fasciation with cuteness is more than just a quirk of human psychology; it's fundamental to explaining what made us human in the first place .... an absolute treasure trove of unconventional and unexpected insight'
- Justin Gregg, author of If Nietzsche Were A Narwhal

'An unprecedented and occasionally startling roadmap of social, psychological, and even biological reasons why humans find things cute, from babies and kittens to Hello Kitty, from anime to Disney. Deeply researched and engagingly written, Irresistible is more than its title implies - it's essential'
- Matt Alt

'In this landmark work of cute studies, Joshua Paul Dale deftly combines comprehensive overview and eye-opening analysis to pinpoint the developments of cuteness across Japanese and Western cultures ... Irresistible is a significant and entertaining exploration of a ubiquitous but often-overlooked aesthetic'
- Isabel Galleymore

'Recognising cuteness is a spontaneous, natural act - a knee-jerk omg moment - but within that reaction is a universe of feels: what we want from others, what we find worth protecting, and how we reach out for connection. Irresistible is scholarship that does not feel at all like homework, and Dale deftly unpacks the long and broad history of the feeling of kawaii with deep respect, rigour, and a sense of fun. It's a book you'll absolutely want to squeeze'
- Connie Wang

'In this accessible, enjoyable book, Joshua Dale takes readers on a tour of the aesthetics and cultural uses of Japanese kawaii and related forms of cuteness, traversing historical times and national boundaries. Dale shows what we can learn about our societies and ourselves when take cuteness seriously'
- Alisa Freedman, author of Tokyo in Transit

'An irresistible read for a wide audience ... with a gift of story-telling and a firm grasp of scientific as well as historical and contemporary artistic sources, both in the West and Japan, Joshua Dale offers us (with good humour) reason to take seriously the cute to understand our contemporary world and its meaning for our humanity'
- Prof. Gary Cross, Pennsylvania State University


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