This puppy: Fluffy time-waster or productivity hack?

Why cute images are a productivity hack

Ingrid Fetell Lee: We find a lot of joy in cute things whether that's baby animal videos or cartoons. And the reason that we find this joy is actually it stems from deep in our evolution.
Cuteness is actually a set of aesthetic features that are "designed" to unlock playful and nurturing behavior in us. And for children even as young as six years old, cute features actually prompt these kinds of nurturing behaviors. So cuteness is actually a kind of defense mechanism that helps protect vulnerable young individuals from harm as they grow older.
So cute features consist of a few basic things. Usually round features—so big, round eyes, a round head that's usually a little bit too big for its body—And these aesthetic signals actually prompt playful and nurturing impulses in a caregiver. And so the idea is that when something has these cute features—whether that's a baby or a baby animal or even a cartoon—These features prompt us to feel a sense of play, and they actually prompt us to engage more deeply with that cute thing so that cute animal gets a lot of stimulation that it needs for its brain to develop.
This one's a little kooky, but research in Japan has shown that looking at cute things actually can increase concentration.

One of the reasons that they speculate that cuteness might influence concentration is that cute things are associated with nurturing, and nurturing is a very focused and detail-oriented activity. And so when people perform tasks after looking at pictures of baby animals they actually found that they were more attentive to detail and more conscientious in the tasks that they did. So this might be another way to both improve performance but also bring a little bit of joy to the workspace. I do this in my own workspace by adding googly eyes to things, which is a very silly way to do it but it actually brings a lot of joy and maybe it also helps me catch errors in my writing.

  • Looking at cute things can supercharge your mental focus.
  • It triggers the nurturing part of the brain and can actually help you achieve more.
  • Don't quote us when your boss catches you looking at puppy videos, though!

Surprising Science

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.

Keep reading Show less

VR experiments manipulate how people feel about coffee

A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.

Credit: Escobar / Petit / Velasco, Frontiers in Psychology
Surprising Science
  • Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
  • In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
  • The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.
Keep reading Show less

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Decade3d-anatomy online via Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less

Is empathy always good?

Research has shown how important empathy is to relationships, but there are limits to its power.

Videos
  • Empathy is a useful tool that allows humans (and other species) to connect and form mutually beneficial bonds, but knowing how and when to be empathic is just as important as having empathy.
  • Filmmaker Danfung Dennis, Bill Nye, and actor Alan Alda discuss the science of empathy and the ways that the ability can be cultivated and practiced to affect meaningful change, both on a personal and community level.
  • But empathy is not a cure all. Paul Bloom explains the psychological differences between empathy and compassion, and how the former can "get in the way" of some of life's crucial relationships.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast