Cute animal videos are always popular on social media. However, rather than being just a popular way of procrastinating, science has found that looking at all those cute animals is good for your mental health and may even help you work better.
A study by researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan, found that looking at pictures of puppies and kittens boost concentration and attention. Hiroshi Nittono and his team did the experiments with university students. They noted that “viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional focus.”
The students were asked to perform tasks requiring careful attention. Those who looked at pictures of cute baby animals had their task performance improved. An additional finding of the Japanese study was that students worked at a slower and more deliberate pace after viewing the pictures.
In the same study, students were asked to view stimuli involving a large letter made up of smaller letters. After viewing the baby animal pictures, the participants were able to more quickly process the small letters relative to the large one. A possible explanation noted was that caring for babies requires careful attention to their mental and physical health, an idea that fits with findings that looking at baby animals produced more of an effect than watching adult animals.
A study by Jessica Gall Myrick, a media researcher at Indiana University in Bloomington, found that participants reported feeling more energetic after watching cat-related videos. A study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found a correlation between humor — something often associated with the cute animal videos — and feelings of energy.
Respondents in Myrick’s study reported less negative emotions, including anxiety, annoyance, and sadness, following a cat-watching session. They noted that the pleasure they gained by watching cat videos seemed to outweigh any guilt they felt about procrastinating on tasks. Scientists have found that a “baby schema,” meaning large eyes, chubby cheeks, big foreheads, and generally rounded features, such as baby humans as well as kittens and puppies, tends to activate a smiling, positive effect and nurturing behavior. It also tends to give a dopamine rush to the brain similar to eating sugar. Oriana Aragon, a Yale psychologist, noted “Our survival depends on us taking care of our young. It’s part of our human species to respond to these features.”
So, while official cat video breaks may not come to your workplace immediately, workers can help make their case with this news from Myrick:
“Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional payoff may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward.”
Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com
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