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The Neoteny Barrier: Seeking Respect for the Non-Cute

Mark J. Estren
Journal of Animal Ethics
Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 6-11
DOI: 10.5406/janimalethics.2.1.0006
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/janimalethics.2.1.0006
Page Count: 6
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The Neoteny Barrier: Seeking Respect for the Non-Cute
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Abstract

A foundational human attraction to mammalian neoteny may be crucial for preservation of our own species, but it can be counterproductive in relationships between humans and other animals. The deeply rooted human psychological attraction to and preference for anthropomorphically viewed neotenic characteristics explains why some animals, whether endangered or not, receive far more public attention and scientific study than others. An understanding of the neoteny barrier makes it possible to find ways around it: The barrier may not be possible to break, but it can be modified by scientific awareness of its existence and an alteration of public perception of value to include animals who would not, in neotenic terms, be considered cute.

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