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Study: Cute Pics Improve Work Skills

By Rich_Maloof Sep 28, 2012 9:26PM

Hang in there, baby — Friday’s coming. And if that sentiment doesn’t automatically make you feel better, reread it while looking at a kitten dangling from a rope.

See that? It worked. Friday’s here.

As that one woman in your office can tell you (or if you are her, no need), cute pictures of snuggly, doe-eyed little critters touch a soft spot in us humans. Baby schema — the set of features that make young animals appealing, such as big eyes and a head too big for the body — have been shown in experiments to capture people’s attention, make them smile and even induce caregiving to others. Oh sure, the boss may seem tough, but one look at a basket full of puppies and he’ll want to rub you right on your little belly.

A study published online this week by the journal PloS ONE suggests that viewing cute images not only makes people feel better, but improves performance in completing certain tasks.

The study comes out of Hiroshima University in Japan, home of Hello Kitty and countless anime beings. Researchers sought to understand the effect of images described as kawaii, loosely translated as "cute," on behavior. In the first of three experiments, student subjects playing a game similar to Operation exhibited improved fine-motor dexterity after looking at photos of kittens and puppies, just as real surgeons do. A quote from the study nodding to earlier work reads:

"The improvement in the accuracy of this task can be interpreted as an index of increased attention to and control of motor actions.… That is, 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."

A second experiment produced similar results for visual tasks, supporting the researchers’ hypothesis that cute images narrow focus and attention. Control subjects shown pictures of adult animals, and presumably some pretty darn ugly ones, showed no performance improvement in either experiment.

The third experiment involved a visual challenge with groups of subjects viewing either baby animal pictures, adult animal pictures or more neutral "images of pleasant foods." There was no improved performance evidence in the food group. It doesn't really seem reasonable, anyway, that looking at — what’s "pleasant food" anyway? — a chocolate muffin, say, would sharpen your typing skills. But how about eating it? That seems worth a try.

"Cute features not only make objects more user friendly and approachable," the study concludes, "but also induce careful behavioral tendencies in the users, which is beneficial in specific situations, such as driving and office work."

We’re not sure why exactly this warrants a scientific study but we’re going to stare at a baby marmoset right now and, with improved concentration, wait for the answer to emerge.

Photo: Fotosearch/Getty Images

Sep 29, 2012 2:24PM
I work in a long term care facility.  We have therapy pets brought in.  You should see the smiles these animals bring to faces.  
Sep 29, 2012 7:19AM
Awwwww I can't stop laughing. That little kitten is just TOO CU-UTE!! But  it's true, cute baby animals bring you all sorts of joy. Even now, I could be having a terrible day, come home and see one of my cats looking up at me with those big ole eyes and before I know it, none of that matters anymore!! 
Sep 29, 2012 6:20AM
My Boxer is my love. She is an intricate part of our family.  Ellie rocks!!!
I love animals as long as they do not have more than 4 legs.
Sep 29, 2012 2:41AM
They say that having a dog reduces stress in your life...  so I have 4 dogs... it takes that many to reduce my stress...  they never ask you where you been, they don't sass you back..  and they never drink your last beer.  Nothing but love.  I come home to a wonderful husband with open arms a big kiss a smile and my kids and it makes all the days troubles and blahs go away.  Then to turn around and do it all over again for tomorrow.............. I am truly blessed.    
Sep 29, 2012 2:11AM
animals of all kinds do cheer people up and that a good thing for all who have one.....they treat you much better than so called "Human - oids".....more later world....
Sep 29, 2012 1:40AM
At the plant were I retired from, a pleasing picture could get you fired, if some sexless woman spied it.
Sep 29, 2012 1:33AM
There is a calendar at the shop with pics of girls in bikinis, that helps us work better.
And also study's have shown that if you wear Kevlar gloves all day you are less likely to get cuts and less instances of getting stitches..... (obviously but who wants to be forced to wear gloves all day when working with rubber!!!!!)
So who ever does these study's are retarded.

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