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Coming on the heels of the infamous ‘heroin’ picture that showed a US grandmother passing out from an apparent heroin overdose — while her four-year-old grandson sat in the back seat, a new study has found that opioid dependence affects how ‘cute’ we perceive images of children to be.
Fifty-year-old Rhonda Pasek was sentenced to jail last week after officials in Ohio posted the photo, sending shock waves among families across the world.
In this Wednesday, September 7, 2016, file photo, released by the East Liverpool Police Department, a young child sits in a vehicle behind his grandmother, Rhonda Pasek and her boyfriend, James Acord, both of whom are unconscious from a drug overdose, in East Liverpool, Ohio. An Ohio judge has turned over the custody of the boy. A Columbiana County Juvenile Court administrator told The Associated Press that the boy’s great uncle and great aunt petitioned the court for custody, which was granted by a judge on Monday, September 12. (AP)
As cuteness can trigger caregiving motivation, this result indicates that the opioids — which includes illicit drugs such as heroin as well as medications commonly prescribed for pain — may have significant effects on our ability to care for others.
“We found that the brains of people with opioid dependence didn’t respond to the baby schema,” said Professor Daniel Langleben from University of Pennsylvania in the US.
Baby schema is a set of visual characteristics typical of human and animal babies, which makes them more adorable or “cute’.
They include such features as large eyes, big foreheads, and small chins, which over evolution we have come to subconsciously recognise as characteristic of infants and inviting caretaking, so much so that we have incorporated these features into dolls, cartoon characters, adverts, and even car design, etc.