Looking At Cute Animal Pictures Good For Productivity

By Amir Khan on September 28, 2012 8:21 AM EDT

Kitten
If your boss ever catches you looking at pictures of cute animals at work, just tell him you were trying to increase your productivity (Photo: Creative Commons)

If your boss ever catches you looking at pictures of cute animals at work, just tell him you were trying to increase your productivity. According to a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, looking at cute images of baby animals may cause you to pay more attention and exhibit more careful behavior.

Not surprisingly, the research comes out of Japan , where kawaii culture, Japanese for "cute," reigns. Previous studies have shown that seeing baby faces triggers care-giving instincts in humans, but this most recent study is the first to show that these instincts can translate outside of baby care and into tasks that require concentrations.

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Researchers had 48 students play a game similar to "Operation," where they had to use tweezers to remove pieces without triggering the buzzer. After the first round, half of the students looked at pictures of cute baby animals, while the other half looked at pictures of adult animals.

In round two, everyone in the group that looked at pictures of the baby animals improved their score and was able to pluck out more pieces than before. The group that looked at the adult animals showed no improvement.

In a second experiment, researchers used 48 new participants to and had them look at clusters of numbers and figure out how many times a certain digit appeared. They were told to provide as many accurate answers as possible in three minutes, and this time, researchers divided the participants into three groups. The first looked at baby animals, the second looked at adult animals and the third looked at pictures of food.

The findings from the first experiment held true the second time. The study participants who looked at the baby animals did significantly better the second time around, while the other groups did not improve at all.

"Kawaii things not only make us happier, but also affect our behavior," the researchers, led by psychologist Hiroshi Nittono, wrote in the study. "This study shows that viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional focus." 

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