In the early '60s, Walter Keane became very popular for portraits of saucer-eyed waifs, with the enthusiasm for “big eyes” paintings of cherubs creating in part a theory that it was the unusually large eyes of baby animals (and humans) compared to the rest of their heads which made them so loveable.

The eyes have it

Infants of every species have unusually large eyes because while the rest of the head still has to grow into its adult size, the eye doesn’t grow because the cornea doesn’t have any blood supply and therefore can’t grow along with the rest of the body.

For a while that was thought to be the psychological reason that people love kittens, puppies, even human babies no matter how objectively ugly an individual critter is.

Now scientists know better, although the real reason is actually related to eyes and how looking into someone’s eyes triggers the release of a hormone, no matter the size of the eyes.

Look into my eyes

Commonly thought of as a hypnotist’s main move, “look into my eyes,” is famously attributed to various hypnotists. You may be familiar with Kenny Craig saying it in “Little Britain, ” Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don't look around the eyes, look into my eyes. [click] You're under!”

That isn’t really how hypnosis works, but it is illustrative of another urban legend about the importance of eyes in human relationships

Of course we also love puppies because it's so much fun watching them they play..

The chemistry of love

Although with valentine’s Day approaching (Happy massacre!) it may not be romantic to look at love as a science experiment, there is a chemical which causes you to fall in love, it is called oxytocin and, until recently it was freely available in the US as a veterinary supply because it induced labour in bitches ready to whelp.

The way this works and how it is related to eyes is the interesting part, and Japanese researchers were able to conclusively show why people quickly fall in love with puppies - the same information can help reinforce a relationship and can also be used to help an older rescued dog bond with a forever family.

What happens is this, a puppy or even an adult dog will often stare into your eyes.

Some inept dog trainers will tell you that you shouldn’t return the look because it is a sign of aggression, but chemistry proves it is actually an act of love unless the dog is actually agressive. When you hold a puppy and look into its eyes for a minute or longer a strange thing happens in both of your bodies - the chemical oxytocin is released in both the dog and the human.

Researchers found this by taking dogs and owners, measuring the oxytocin levels in each by blood tests before and after a staring session. Sure enough, the chemical hormone which is known to create a feeling of love and bonding in human females with their babies is created and passed into the blood of both dog and owner during the staring period.

Use with caution

It is really amazing that after centuries of interaction with dogs as pets science only proved how the link is created quite recently.

Whether or not you make some use of this information which applies to adults as well as infants, both human and canine, is up to you but with St. Valentine's Day fast approaching there may be some practical use for this abstract science.

You need to be careful, Beth may have spent too much time looking at our pet emu.

Who knows, it might even work with groundhogs.