Study of the Decade: Looking at Photos of Cute Animals Linked to Increased Work PerformanceS

Stuck at work? Having trouble finishing out your Friday? Take a good, long look at this bunny. It's freaking adorable. And, according to newly published research, it could actually improve your performance at work*. Yes, really.

Researchers from Hiroshima University in Japan describe the results of their study in the latest issue of PLoS ONE. We've preserved the researchers' description verbatim where possible, including explanations only when necessary, because there's something unequivocally excellent about reading things like "cuteness-triggered positive emotion" in peer-reviewed scientific research:

In this study, three experiments were conducted to examine the effects of viewing cute images on subsequent task performance. In the first experiment, university students performed a fine motor dexterity task [participants played Bilibili Dr. Game, basically the Japanese version of Operation] before and after viewing images of baby ["cute images"] or adult ["less cute"] animals. Performance... increased after viewing cute images more than after viewing images that were less cute.

Study of the Decade: Looking at Photos of Cute Animals Linked to Increased Work PerformanceSIn the second experiment, this finding was replicated by using a non-motor visual search task. [This involved counting the number of times a specified number appeared in successive 40-digit groupings. For example, a subject presented with the numbers on the left would be asked to identify, as quickly as possible, how many times the number 8 appeared in the group. Test participants completed as many of these number groups as possible in a three minute period.] Performance improved more after viewing cute images than after viewing less cute images. Viewing images of pleasant foods was ineffective in improving performance.

In the third experiment, participants performed a global–local letter task after viewing images of baby animals, adult animals, and neutral objects.

Study of the Decade: Looking at Photos of Cute Animals Linked to Increased Work PerformanceS

A quick explanation here: in a global-local letter task, participants are asked to indicate, as quickly as possible, whether a stimulus contains the letter "H" or letter "T" by pressing left or right on a response pad. Sounds easy, but the task actually requires a fair bit of concentration, as sometimes the letter the participant is looking for is actually composed of a series of other letters (an example is the big "H," pictured at left, built out of smaller, closely spaced "F"s. This is an example of a global target stimulus); while other times, the letter they're looking for is spelling out a larger letter (the big "L" on the left is built out of smaller, closely spaced "T"s. This is an example of a local target stimulus). Alright, back to the findings:

In general, global features were processed faster than local features. However, this global precedence effect was reduced after viewing cute images.

Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images. This is interpreted as the result of a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion... 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.

There you have it. Now get that Red Bull out of my face and, BRING ME SOME GODDAMN LOLCATS. These posts aren't going to write themselves, people.

[PLoS ONE]

*Provided your work relies on the same skills required for playing Operation, scanning large groups of numbers for other numbers, and/or making big letters out of smaller letters.