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Science Explains Why You Love "Star Wars" Adorable Little Porgs

Star Wars: he Last Jedi (2017) - Porg scanned for cuteness

If you find porgs adorable you're not alone and science can explain why. Last week the trailer for the latest Star Wars movie The Last Jedi was released and it featured a brief cameo of a stubby bird-like creature. The Internet lit up with love for the cute little things and it's not hard to see why.

But your love for Porgs might not be an accident. It's science. By extension, your hatred for them might also be scientifically based. Read on to find out why your brain is telling you to love them.

What Are Porgs?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Source: Entertainment Weekly

In the Star Wars universe, porgs are small creatures native to the islands of Anch-To. That's where Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill and Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is training. Disney says they build nests, can fly and their babies are called "porglets".

Director Rian Johnson came up with the idea after seeing the puffins that live on Skelling Michael, the island off the coast of Ireland, where they filmed Luke's new home for The Force Awakens. "If you go to Skellig at the right time of year, it's just covered in puffins, and they're the most adorable things in the world," Johnson said. "So when I was first scouting there, I saw these guys, and I was like, 'Oh, these are part of the island. And so the porgs are in that realm."
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Porg Concept Art

He added, "'Oh, this is part of the island, we need to find the Star Wars version of this'. And then just story-wise — not that they play a big part in the story — but I knew I wanted to find any source of comic relief I could on the island. And so they were very useful in terms of that."


Why Do People Love Porgs?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Porg puppet

It's all based on the work of Konrad Lorenz. Konrad Zacharias Lorenz was a Noble Prize-winning Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist. In 1949, Lorenz proposed that we love creatures that have features like babies. He called his baby schema "Kindchenschema". Creatures with a "characteristic 'cute' appearance" have small noses, high foreheads and large eyes compared to adults. The baby schema also has short limbs and a round bulbous body. Babies and toddlers fit that description as do some baby animals like puppies.

When we're exposed to cute creatures it triggers our natural instinct to cuddle and take care of them.

Stephan Hamann of Emory University did studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), that found cute pictures stimulate pleasure centers of the brain. They took several pictures of peoples and animals and modified them to be "low" or sort-of cute (narrow face, low forehead, small eyes, big nose, and mouth) to "high" or very cute (round face, high forehead, big eyes, small nose and mouth). Then they showed them to the study participants and had them rate the pictures.
Brain response to baby schema. (A) Linear increase in activation with increasing baby schema in the left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; – 4, 24, 38), left precuneus (PCu; –24, – 68, 30), left fusiform gyrus (FG; – 42, – 62, –9 and –32, –52, –14) and right nucleus accumbens (NAcc; 10, 12, – 8; z threshold 3.1, cluster probability P 0.001). (B) The mean BOLD percent signal change from baseline in the right nucleus accumbens was greatest for high baby schema, followed by the unmanipulated and low baby schema infants (repeated-measures ANOVA F (2, 14) 12.96, P 0.001, Bonferroni corrected pair-wise comparisons *P 0.05 and ***P 0.001). Error bars show SEM. F

According to Hamann, increased activity in the middle orbital cortex is usually associated with pleasure and positive emotion. Some evidence suggests the brain activity there is greater when the stimulus is 'neotenous,' which is to say it has juvenile characteristics — a button nose, big eyes, a large wobbly head, chubby extremities or pudgy cheeks." This instinct serves a purpose. The cuteness of an infant can motivate an adult to take care of it and it's the same with cute baby animals.

If you look at the design of the porg it matches that perfectly. They have great big eyes, big foreheads, little noses, and fat bodies. It can't be a coincidence. Disney is counting on your love for the little guys.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Porg 



Why Do People Hate Porgs? 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Porg 

It sure feels like Disney is trying to manipulate us to buy toys. They could be right. Especially when Disney jumps the gun on marketing. The official article ends with  Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo saying you'll "fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet."

Plush porgs are on sale right now just waiting to fill your natural urge to cuddle the little rascals. In fact, Amazon has over 400 porg-related things you can buy from stuffed dolls to t-shirts.

A cynical person runs screaming into the woods from this. It's understandable. Rules for creating cute characters go all the way back to Preston Blair in 1948. He outlined Disney and Warner Bros cute character design rules in his book and they're still used today.


But the rules aren't foolproof. Our brains are also wired to reject things that are incongruous. In other words, you can't manufacture cute. It has to be authentic. There's a good reason for this because a cute little lion cub might make you run over to give it a hug and a kiss. But that adorable little fluff ball can eat you alive. It's important for the brain to able to look past cute.

So, not all cute characters are popular. Recent animated movies like Pixar's The Good Dinosaur had "cute" characters. But the movie flopped and you didn't buy any of the stuffed Arlo toys that littered toy stores.

The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi fit this design too. They have big round bodies, soulful eyes, little noses and short limbs. But, while they are beloved, some feel they're examples of crass commercialism.

Why? Because their cuteness has nothing to do with the story. In fact, they were originally supposed to be Wookiees and are unusually strong and capable fighters capable of overpowering trained soldiers. The Ewoks could be six feet tall with lizard faces and still work. They're adorable but not in a way that feels authentic to some people.

Contrast that with Gizmo from Gremlins. He's a cute little bug-eyed creature but it fits the story. He's the adolescent, or child, version of the gremlins that grow up to look very different.

So are the Porgs authentically cute? It's hard to tell right now but we'll find out when the movie opens. For now, we can all just bask in the adorable glow of Porgs. Why? Because science!


About Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Adam Driver as Ben Solo \ Kylo Ren, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO,  Jimmy Vee as R2-D2, Veronica Ngo as Paige Tico, Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Benicio Del Toro as DJ,, Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt

Directed by Rian Johnson
Written by Rian Johnson
Music by John Williams

Scheduled release date of December 15, 2017 (US)

Check back for more Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie news, trailers, posters and information

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Why do you love the porgs? Why do you hate the porgs? Are you planning to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

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3 comments:

  1. Doesn't explain why I like bulldogs though. 😁

    ReplyDelete
  2. I dunno Pat. Big heads and stubby legs. I can see it :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ewoks were awful. So expressionless. They were there just for the kids and I worry that's what the porgs are for.

    If someone walked up to me with a basket full of kittens and someone else came up with a baby, I'd go for the kittens every time. Far cuter than a baby.

    ReplyDelete

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