See these tiny, adorable kittens, their eyes so wide, their tiny ears so perky? Your boss probably thinks they're a distraction, but they actually may have boosted your concentration and productivity.
Turns out that puppies, baby harp seals and other Knut-like creatures aren't just good for winning points on the "Aww" index. Beyond the uncontrollable surge of affection they inspire, cute animals may also influence behavior, according to researchers from Hiroshima University.
Tests showed that an image of fluffy little critters "not only improves fine motor skills but also increases perceptual carefulness." They could be used "to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work," according to the report.
Less road rage and happier clients? Researchers say it's possible, due to "a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing."
In Japan, where the recent study was posted online in the Plos One journal, cuteness is referred to as "kawaii." It's a characteristic the Japanese know well, being responsible as they are for Hello Kitty, Pikachu, Kirby and other ridiculously adorable characters.
The study, titled "The Power of Kawaii," gave 48 students the enviable task of looking at pictures of baby animals, adult animals and sumptuous foods. Then, the subjects were tested with various tasks, such as playing a game similar to "Operation."
Those who viewed the kittens and puppies performed far better on assignments that required focused, careful attention.
Justification to sneak an occasional peek at the CorgiCam or I Can Has Cheezburger? We think yes.