October 1, 2012
Scrolling through websites stocked with photos of baby animals in adorable poses could be thought of as a time-waster, but new research suggests that these sites could boost focus and accuracy.
According to Forbes, a study from Hiroshima University in Japan showed that people performed certain tasks more proficiently after viewing cute baby animal photos. "The Power of Kawaii" (kawaii is a Japanese word that loosely translates to "cute") study examined the effect of cuteness on tasks that required fine motor skills.
According to the study, researchers conducted three tasks to assess the effect of cute baby animal images on focus and dexterity. In the first study, participants saw images of cute baby animals or adult animals before and after performing a task. The results showed that dexterity improved after seeing the cute baby animal images. The second experiment, a non-motor visual task, also showed that performance improved after participants viewed cute baby animal images compared to those who viewed less cute images. Finally, a third experiment comparing the effect of baby animal images, adult animal images and neutral objects on a specific task showed the same result.
"Kawaii things not only make us happier, but also affect our behavior," the researchers wrote in the paper, as reported by The Atlantic. "This study shows that viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional focus."
Researchers speculate that the cute baby animal images invoke a sense of vulnerability, and this prompts viewers to behave more carefully, even if at a subconscious level. According to The Atlantic, these findings are in step with those of a 2009 study that suggested just looking at something -- anything -- cute could make people behave more carefully.
"The perception of something as cute activates the idea of something delicate and breakable… valuable and worth caring for," Gary Sherman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and one of the authors of the 2009 research, explained in Life Inc.
Sherman also noted that the cuteness effect appears to be more "generalized" and could extend to other domains and types of tasks. Although Fobres notes that results may be limited due to the small participant size (48 college students, according to The Atlantic), the experiment and past research still suggests that cute images could have a positive effect on attention to detail in day-to-day life as well as the workplace.
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"Aww… Looking at cute pictures could make you better at work," lifeinc.today.com, September 28, 2012, Martha C. White
"Science: Watching Animal Videos Could Make You a Better Employee," theatlantic.com, September 29, 2012, Megan Garber
"The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus," plosone.org, September 26, 2012, Hiroshi Nittono, Michiko Fukushima, Akihiro Yano, and Hiroki Moriya
"Want To Be More Focused? Look At Pictures Of Cute Baby Animals," forbes.com, September 29, 2012, Alex Knapp