Anyone that spends time on the internet realizes pretty quickly that there is an inordinate proportion of it is dedicated to pictures of baby animals. Why? Who knows why? But clearly, there are a lot of people that like to look at pictures of cute animals. Most people, I think, would view them as harmless time-wasters.
But wait – just maybe there’s more to it. An article published last week by PLoS One (PLoS stands for Public Library of Science) suggests that people who view pictures of cute and baby animals are more focused and successful at certain subsequent tasks.
A research group in Japan tested the fine motor dexterity of young adults (essentially asking them to play the game Operation) both before and after viewing pictures of either baby animals (cute) or adult animals (apparently not cute). People that had viewed the cute baby animals had both higher scores and completed the task more quickly than those that didn’t.
Similar results were also found when people were asked to do a visual (non-motor) seek-n-find before and after viewing baby animals (cute), adult animals (non-cute) or that other huge internet time-killer, food porn. Here again, viewing baby animals was the clear way to improve the quality of your visual analytical skills (or perhaps that should be “skillz” at this point). Sorry, Top Chef aficionados, your succulent food images were no match for the subliminal power of baby animals.
Sadly, not all tasks were improved by viewing baby animals. A different visual recognition experiment showed no real changes in any group. Though you gotta admit, two outta three ain’t bad, right?
How could kittens and bunnies sharpen our attention and focus? I don’t know, but clearly more research needs to be done and I don’t think there will be any shortage of volunteers for the trials. Just remember, the next time you catch your surgeon, electrician or – ummm – biotechnology researcher checking out baby animals, they’re not wasting time, their honing their attention for the next task at hand!