Puppies. Kittens. Fat babies. These are the cute things in life we love to coo about, but who knew that the mere sight of them could heighten our mental skills? A new study by Japanese researchers now shows there are more benefits to looking at pictures of these universal delights than just getting a case of the warm and fuzzies. Afterwards, we concentrate better.
Such is the “Power of Kawaii”, as a paper documenting the research is appropriately titled. The Japanese word “kawaii” means cute. The paper was published in the online edition of the U.S. journal Plos One on Thursday. Through three separate experiments a team of scientists from Hiroshima University showed that people showed higher levels of concentration after looking at pictures of puppies or kittens.
About 132 university students were divided up into three groups. Each group was assigned a different task. The first two had the most compelling results. The first was a version of the game Operation where participants had to carefully pick up small objects from a hole without brushing the sides. But to also determine whether the power of cute extends beyond care-related tasks irrelevant to helping others, another task was purely about numbers. The second group was asked to find a given number from a random sequence of numbers within a certain time limit. In both, they performed the given tasks twice – before and after looking at seven pictures of either puppies and kittens or adult versions.
In the number experiment, one subset of subjects was given food images like steak, pasta and sushi to see whether “pleasant” images elicited similar effects as cute ones. The subjects were told the pictures, which were viewed during a “break” in the tasks, were for a separate experiment.
In the Operation experiment, the participants who were shown images of puppies and kittens performed their tasks better after the break than those who looked at cats and dogs. Performance scores improved by 44 percent. They also took their time. The time it took to complete the task increased by 12 percent.
“This finding suggests that viewing cute images makes participants behave more deliberately and perform tasks with greater time and care,” said the researchers, according to the published paper.