Is Monday malaise leaving you sluggish at work? Try looking at photos of baby animals, furtively if necessary. According to a new study out of Japan, so-called cute photos — sleeping kittens, chubby babies, frolicking puppies — may actually increase one's productivity levels. Here's a quick guide to the aww-inducing news:
Wait, a study about cute photos?
Yes, a team of scientists from Hiroshima University wanted to revisit and improve on a previous experiment which found that people who looked at cute images behaved more carefully — an ingrained response that has to do with an instinctual need to handle babies safely. Building on this, scientists divided 132 university students into three groups and had them perform separate tasks. The first group played a game similar to "Operation" (the board game that challenges you to remove "body parts" from a graphic representation of a body using tweezers, buzzing when you make an error). The second group was asked to find a given number in a random sequence of numbers. The third group took a test designed to measure their level of focus. The members of each group completed one round of their respective tasks; at that point, half were shown images of baby animals while the other half were shown photos of adult animals. The groups were then asked to return to their tasks.
What did researchers find?
In all three experiments, participants who looked at pictures of cute baby animals outperformed those who looked at pictures of adult animals (as well as images of neutral objects). In the "Operation" experiment, performance scores among those participants who'd viewed the cute photos improved by 44 percent. In the numbers game, such participants were more accurate, improving their scores by about 16 percent. Researchers concluded that "viewing cute images makes participants behave more deliberately and perform tasks with greater time and care." And this is especially true in tasks that already require carefulness. Viewing cute photos had a positive effect "not only in the motor domain but also in the perceptual domain."
How can we use puppy photos to our advantage?
The study's authors suggest that incorporating such cute imagery into our everyday professional routines could make people more careful and deliberate in their work. Bosses, however, may need a little convincing.
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