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Could babies be making us love them?

There are very few amongst us who wouldn’t stop to look at babies as they pass by. Women can be seen to do this more often and, apparently, it is not just cultural conditioning to blame; the reasons go straight up to biology. Dr Shir Atzil of the Northeastern University is a post-doctoral scholar who is working on the psychology behind affection for babies, especially seen in women.
Atzil says that infants produce a particular stimulant that brings out maternal behaviour in women. Alloparenting is the biological term for this behaviour. Women, upon being exposed to babies, tend to naturally take the maternal role, especially if she has given birth before. When it is our own child, the attachment is much more, not just for women, but similarly for the fathers as well. It is a behavioural pattern that is unique to each species, she says.
“Maternal behaviour is a crucial component for survival,” says Atzil. This behaviour is an essential component for the survival of not just the individual but the entire species. The response to the child happens for the women in an intuitive manner, at “low brain regions”, while for men it happens in a more cognitive manner. Such maternal instincts, thus, go back to our history of being mammals and is further pushed forward through cultural norms.
There is a science behind everything. This is the case when you pick up a child and start to play with it as well. Angela Herring from the University talks about how, when a colleague came to visit them at the communications office with her newly born infant girl, the office members crowded around them. As time passed by, only women were left standing there. There was whole biological processing happening in the situation where certain parts of their brains were firing signals. It’s easier, she says, when you have evolution to blame for your actions.
N Malavika Mohan