Looking at Cute Animals Boosts Productivity
Next time you find yourself browsing pictures of cats on reddit instead of studying, and subsequently wonder what in the hell it is you’re doing with your life, you can now take solace in knowing that you might actually be giving yourself a boost in performance. Yes, really.
A group of biology researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan, a country which is undeniably the world’s largest exporter of cuteness, have discovered that the internet’s favorite way to kill time actually improves your ability to focus. In the study, called “The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus,” two groups of test subjects were asked to play a boardgame similar to “Operation.” After doing so, one group was then shown a series of baby animal photos, while the other was shown pictures of adult animals. The two groups then proceeded to each play another game of Operation, leading to the former group to fare significantly better than the latter, concluding that “the tenderness elicited by cute images is more than just a positive affective feeling state. It can make people more physically tender in their motor behavior.”
In a second test, three groups were shown images of either baby animals, adult animals, or food, and then asked to spot the amount of recurrences of a specific number in a sequence. For the final test, three groups subjected to baby animals, adult animals or food had their reaction times measured by viewing a stimulus that contained either the letters H or T, and then responding to which they had seen as quickly and accurately as possible by pressing a response pad. In both tests, the groups that had been shown the images of cute animals outperformed the groups that viewed either food or pictures of adult animals.
The research study concluded that “viewing cute images has a positive effect on behavioral performance in tasks that require carefulness. The effect occurred not only in the motor domain but also in the perceptual domain.” As for why, the researchers believe that this may have something to do with an evolutionary incentive to provide attentive care to defenseless young, and that our ancestors were better able to continue their line if they were more aware of their environments when around children, and that this awareness in turn “may be beneficial to performance on tasks that require carefulness in the motor and perceptual domains.”
“Caring for babies (nurturance) not only involves tender treatments but also requires careful attention to the targets’ physical and mental states as well as vigilance against possible threats to the targets. If viewing cute things makes the viewer more attentive, the performance of a non-motor perceptual task would also be improved.”
While the study does have interesting implications into perhaps why we seek out cute images when we should otherwise be working, it does not, however, delve into when the line is drawn between providing a boost in productivity and outright procrastination. The study is available online at the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.
Tags: counter intuitive