The next time your boss catches you checking out a live puppy cam or giggling over a Corgi Tumblr, say that you’re just trying to focus on your work. No, fur real — a recent study in Japan (home to all things kawaii like the Shiba Inu) found that after viewing photos of cute animals and babies, subjects were able to focus about 44 percent better.
What we’d like to know is why they didn’t call us to test their theories? We could have told them from experience that cuteness makes you sharper — how do you think we all got so smart?
In a series of tests, researchers at Japan’s Hiroshima University asked 48 subjects — all between the ages of 18 and 22, right handed, and equally divided between men and women — to play a game similar to the classically anxiety-inducing Operation after viewing a variety of images ranging from food, people, and adult and baby animals. The experiment was designed to test for fine motor dexterity. During the multiple times subjects played the game, they were shown images of puppies and kittens before at least one of those sessions. (We bet they showed them Dogster and Catster.)
The results? In the rounds following the puppy and kitten viewings, subjects performed about 44 percent better. Viewing adult dogs and cats also helped subjects play the game better, but only by 5 percent.
In another experiment designed to test concentration, 16 students were given the task of identifying a particular number (for example, the number 6) out of a group of 40 printed on sheets of paper without pointing. They were similarly shown images of baby animals, grown-up animals, and foods such as pasta, steak, and sushi. Students performed better after viewing baby animals, while images of adult animals and food had no effect.
In their last test, a set of 36 subjects were tested for focus by responding to letters on a screen. Again, the group of 18 women and 18 men was shown images of baby animals, adult animals, and appetizing food. And again, subjects who looked at the baby animals were able to focus better than the subjects who looked at adult animals or food.
This is science, people!
While the study did not explore how and why looking at cute adorable fuzzy babies makes us smarter, researchers concluded “that perceiving cuteness not only improves fine motor skills but also increases perceptual carefulness.” The researchers added, “This study provides further evidence that perceiving cuteness exerts immediate effects on cognition and behavior in a wider context than that related to caregiving or social interaction.”
Tell us something we don’t know!
But let’s put ourselves to the test, shall we?
First, complete a task that requires dexterity, concentration, and focus (flinging crumpled paper balls into the trash can perhaps?) and record how you did. Now scroll through videos and photos provided by yours truly, your faithful Cuteness Correspondent, and try that task again. Did you do better this time around? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get Japan on the phone.