Herzog argues, following Konrad Lorenz, that the 'cute response' is triggered by the fact that humans are attracted to anything that looks like a human baby, and that 'young animals share features with human infants: large foreheads and craniums, big eyes, bulging cheeks and soft contours.'
Bulging cheeks? Large cranium? I don't see it. (Need I spell it out that in my book the puppy is cuter than the baby?) I wonder if one could do a test: take a puppy to the park, as I've been doing every morning. Count the number of people who approach the puppy, stroke it, play with it, ask a question about it. I'd say it runs to about 90% of everybody in the park. Now take a baby to the park. This I haven't done (nobody wants to lend me their baby) , but I'm willing to wager that the cute response will be way down at 50% max. But I'm open to persuasion: anybody out there with a baby? (Okay, my sample is pre-selected. The park is frequented by dog-lovers. Okay, then, take the baby to the mall.)
Here are my friends Hans and Andre interacting with Simon:
Now my question is this: are my friends responding to Simon's baby-like features? Or what? (The test would be to confront them with a live baby next time and see how they respond.)
Then there's another question: granted that cuteness has undoubted survival value, in that humans are attracted to animals in proportion to their cuteness --as Herzog says, 'This is bad news for the rare giant Chinese Salamander. It is the largest and possibly most repulsive amphibian on earth, a beady-eyed, six-foot-long mass of brown slime.' But then again, in China this may be the only way to escape being eaten -- granted, as I say, that we love animals because they're cute, what is that makes animals love us? Why would Simon give the time of day to two fully-grown unshaven human males?
It's a mystery.