Why Cute Kitten Pictures Really Do Make You More Productive at Work—in 1 Graph

This could be the greatest sentence ever published in the history of Internet research: "The results show that viewing cute images improves behavioral performance on a non-motor speeded task."

Just as you suspected, world. Adorable kitten pictures do make you more productive.

A Japanese study discovered by Sarah Kliff at Wonkblog found that looking at pictures of cute animals boosted performance in an online game more than looking at pictures of either adult animals or delicious-looking foods. Here is the graph that justifies your cat obsession. File-Print and tape it to your wall for every time your boss suggests you tab back to Excel.

Why do baby animals make you better at focusing? One conclusion is that the affective response from seeing something cute heightens our focus. That feeling of "awwwww" is a kind of attention stimulus. The authors also suggest that "tenderness elicited by cute images" can make people more physically tender in their motor behavior.

The broader story is that a wisely employed serving of Internet can make you more productive, whether you're looking at baby walruses or checking sports scores, because brief breaks preserve high-quality attention. A 1999 study by Cornell University Ergonomics Research Laboratory used a computer program to remind workers to take short breaks. Their finding: "Workers receiving the alerts were 13 percent more accurate on average in their work than coworkers who were not reminded." Another study from Singapore, uncovered by Rebecca Greenfield reported in The Atlantic Wire, found that "those who spent less than 20 percent of their time perusing the Internet's silly offerings were 9 percent more productive than those who resist going online."

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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