Semiotic modeling of cuteness in cartoon characters/mascots


Tartu : University of Tartu Press, 2021

ISBN: 9789949036325

175, [1] p. ; 25 cm

Dissertationes semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis ; 36

Softcover new book


Doctoral theses defended at the University of Tartu, summary in Estonian

From Disney’s hit films to your cereal and toilet paper, we encounter cute animal characters constantly in our daily life, and they’re not just for children. The presence of cuteness as an aesthetic can effect our decision making and lead to feelings of care-giving, attraction, and affection. But what makes these characters so endearing? Research into theoretical biology and psychology has found cuteness to be a major motivator in our caring of infants, adoption of pets, and preference for faces and products. These studies claim our attraction to cute things stems from a biological care-taking response, but this does not explain personal and cultural preferences and why we find cartoons and products cute. This dissertation explores why we find cartoon characters cute and how biosemiotic research help us understand the factors behind our perceptions of cuteness. This dissertation investigates the features that underlie our perceptions, explores how cuteness affects our interactions with both animal characters and biological animals, and offers practical design advice to designers and animators in the creation of animal characters. The results of the research conclude that the perception of cuteness is not just visual but linked with our other senses and that it is not entirely universal but is influenced by culture and personal factors. Additionally, this research identifies how the usage of cute features design and human-like expressions can make animal characters more appealing and emotionally affective for audiences and that these characters can impact how we perceive and interact with real-world animals. As a whole this dissertation advances the field of cuteness studies and offers a practical domain for the application of semiotics.

Dydynski, Jason Mario
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