The Hufffington Post Meredith Bennett-Smith First Posted: 10/01/12 02:03 PM ET Updated: 10/02/12 09:59 AM ET
Japanese researcher Hiroshi Nittono just made the Internet's day. According to a new study lead by Nittono for Hiroshima University, looking at pictures of puppies and panda cams and grumpy, grumpy cat videos at work doesn't just improve your mood, it can also increase your productivity.
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 that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing.
Published online last week in the journal PlosOne, the Japanese research paper, entitled "The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus," concluded that looking at cute images at work can boost attention to detail and overall performance.
In Japan "kawaii" (Japanese for cute) is a cultural phenomenon (think, the Hello Kitty craze). With their large heads and eyes, these type of images are thought to stir positive feelings because they resemble babies, according to LiveScience.com.
For the study, Nittono and his colleagues studied a group of 48 students as they completed a task similar to the American board game "Operation." The students attempted the task three times; the first after looking at a series of pictures of baby animals, then after seeing adult animals and finally after seeing pictures of delicious foods.
The students who looked at cute animals did far better at the game then did peers who observed adult animals or food, outperforming their peers by a "significant margin," according to Gawker.
Researchers theorized several reasons for the improvement. One reason was linked to a behavior tendency of adults to slow down speech when talking to puppies and kittens. These behaviors "may transfer to subsequent task performance," according to the Washington Post.
Another reason may be connected to nurturing instincts. "If viewing cute things makes the viewer more attentive, the performance of a non-motor perceptual task would also be improved," the study stated.
On the other hand, past studies have shown that short breaks of all kinds, whether to look at that adorable corgi slideshow or to check out the latest "Gangnam Style" parody video, can help keep you more focused throughout the work day.
"Web browsing can actually refresh tired workers and enhance their productivity, compared to other activities such as making personal calls, texts or emails, let alone working straight through with no rest at all," reports The Wall Street Journal.
This view is bolstered by a 2009 University of Melbourne study which concluded that "short and unobtrusive breaks" made workers more productive than counterparts who refused to give in to the call of the web.