Want To Be More Productive At Work? Scroll Through Cute Animal Photos (Baby Hippo, Anyone?)

This January, Curiosity is digging into the science of productivity. Start your 2017 on the right foot with our full series on scientifically proven ways to do more, faster.

Ever had that awkward moment when your boss walks over to your computer and instead of having a work document on your screen, she catches you clicking through a "cute kitty" slideshow? Just chalk it up to improving productivity. A 2012 study found that looking at pictures of baby animals significantly improves work performance.

Puppy Love

There's no question why baby animal photos go viral — they're adorable. But do they have a purpose other than giving you the warm and fuzzies? Science says yes. Researchers at Hiroshima University conducted a number of experiments on the topic, including one in which participants were asked to look at pictures of baby animals, adult animals, or appealing food. The intention was to investigate how cute animals—in this case, the baby ones—would affect subsequent job performance, and the results were clear. "Viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral carefulness," the researchers wrote.

But Why?

How could staring at kitties be anything but a (welcome) distraction? There are a couple of theories. "First, the performance improvement could be due to the slowing down of behavior," the researchers write. Previous research has found that people talk more slowly when talking to babies, and this might translate to generally being more thoughtful and deliberate while performing subsequent tasks. If looking at cute babies slows you down, maybe looking at cute animals does too. Another theory is that the attention you need in order to care for a baby animal may be triggered when you see a picture of said animal, and that could translate to whatever activity you're doing after looking at the picture. "If viewing cute things makes the viewer more attentive, the performance of a non-motor perceptual task would also be improved."

Our suggestion? Work for about 90 minutes, scroll through some viral puppies and kitties, then get back to work. Not only will you be happier (because, kitty!) but you'll be super productive, too. (And maybe forward this article to your boss.)

Editors' Picks: Videos About Why Cute Animals Are Good For You

Take A Cute Baby Animal Break

Nearly 2 minutes of cute baby animals, caught on tape at the Zoological Society of London. Watch this and you're bound to be more productive at work.

Why Do Women Love Cute Baby Animals?

Is it a maternal instinct?

Why Do We Want To "Eat Up" Cute Animals?

It's weird, when you think about it.

Written by Curiosity Staff January 30, 2015