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Looking at photos of baby animals improves productivity, study finds

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 A newly-released study shows that that looking at photos of very young animals might actually boost a person's concentration and productivity at work. (iStock) Office workers take note: you no longer need to minimize that live-streaming kitten cam on your desktop whenever the boss walks by.

If anything, you should show it off proudly. According to Japanese researchers, you're not slacking off by looking at adorable imagery - you're simply improving your performance.

"The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus" is the name of a study published last week in the open access journal PloS ONE.

Conducted at Japan's Hiroshima University in 2009, the results of the study published this week show that looking at photos of very young animals might actually boost a person's concentration and productivity at work due to "the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing."

Researchers performed a series of three experiments with 102 subjects split into smaller groups.

In the first experiment, the subjects were asked to play the Japanese version of "Operation," then look at a series of photos and then perform the tasks again.

One group looked at photos young puppies and kittens, while another group looked at photos of grown cats and dogs.

Those who looked at photos of cute baby animals before attempting these tests ended up with a performance score 44 per cent higher on average than the group who had looked at adult animals.

The experiment was performed two more times, with subjects trying other skill-testing tasks. A control group was also added that looked at images of delicious food. The results of the first experiment were duplicated- those who looked at the cute pictures did much better than those who looked at adult animals, while looking at food images affected a subject's performance very little.


"Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images," the article states. "For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work."

Live Science points out the appropriateness of such a study taking place in Japan, known around the world as a capital of all things cute.

"Perhaps unsurprisingly this new study comes from researchers in Japan, where kawaii (Japanese for "cute") reigns. From the characters of 'Hello Kitty' and 'Pokémon's' Pikachu, cute creatures stir positive feelings, researchers say, because they resemble babies with their big eyes and large heads."

Indeed, a "baby schema" was how researchers at Hiroshima University qualified how cute an animal was.

"This is a set of features that are commonly seen in young animals: a large head relative to the body size, a high and protruding forehead, large eyes, and so forth," reads the paper. "In humans, the stimuli are deemed cute, capture attention, bring a smile to the viewer's face, and induce motivation and behavior for approach and caregiving."

Do you have any baby animal images to share? Drop us a link in the comments, or submit them to the CBC Your News community.

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