On a rough street in London, shopkeepers are betting that babies can help change the ways of local criminals. They've altered store shutters to ensure that any would-be hoodlums will have to carry out their misdeeds in front of a heartwarming gallery of chubby-cheeked innocents.
The BBC reports on the psychosocial experiment on Greens End, a street in southeast London heavily vandalized during last summer's riots.
Ogilvy and Mather advertising agency, which paid graffiti artists to paint the shop-front portraits from baby photos sent in by local families, claims the idea of using cuteness as a crime deterrent is backed up by science.
"The evidence suggests that babies' faces, the round cheeks and the big eyes, promote a caring response in human beings," Tara Austin, a planner with the agency, told the BBC.
And she's right. According to research conducted earlier this year and published in the journal NeuroImage, when adults view images of human infants, even adults who have no children of their own, regions of their brains that normally precede speech, movement and emotional reward are activated.
In other words, when adults see an unfamiliar baby face, their brains seem to automatically make preparations for cooing, cuddling and happiness.
But whether all the warm fuzzies on Greens End will truly stifle crime, or whether the same brain regions that cue up baby-lifting motions might also cue up wallet-lifting motions, remains to be seen.
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