When economists talk about boosting productivity, they usually talk about increasing the adoption of new technologies and optimizing workflows. Japanese researchers, however, have come up with a very offbeat approach: Showing workers lots of pictures of adorable, fuzzy, baby animals.
A team of researchers at Hiroshima University recently conducted a study where they showed university students pictures of baby animals before completing various tasks. What they found, in research published today, was that those who saw the baby animal pictures did more productive work after seeing those photographs – even more than those who saw a picture of an adult animal or a pleasant food.
Forty-eight students were recruited to do a simple task: Playing a Japanese children’s game that, from the paper, sounds a lot like the American board game Operation. They had to drop various body pieces into holes without touching the edges.
Students did this in a few conditions: After seeing a pictures of baby animals (puppies and kittens), after seeing adult animals (dogs and cats) and after seeing pleasant foods (steak, sushi and pasta). Far and away, productivity was best in the first condition – you can see this in the chart below. This was true across both genders participating in the experiment.
The researchers have a few thoughts on why, exactly, this happens. What is it about baby animals that would lead to students having more exact movements? One idea is that it has to do with how we talk to puppies and kittens, generally in a slower voice. That behavioral tendency, they theorize “ may transfer to subsequent task performance.”
Students may have also become more attuned to fine movements.
Caring for babies (nurturance) not only involves tender treatments but also requires careful attention to the targets’ physical and mental states as well as vigilance against possible threats to the targets. If viewing cute things makes the viewer more attentive, the performance of a non-motor perceptual task would also be improved.
You can read the full study here. But, more importantly – and strictly for productivity-enhancing purposes – you might just want to check out these photographs of newborn red pandas. And there’s also this Washington Post animal pictures gallery if you’re looking for an even bigger boost.