Sep. 28, 2012 at 2:20 PM ET
Forget PowerPoint: It turns out the secret to improving productivity at your job might be puppies.
A new study out of Hiroshima University found that people performed a variety of tasks faster or more accurately after looking at pictures of kittens and puppies. These test subjects also beat out others who looked at pictures of adult animals or gourmet meals instead.
"Viewing cute images improved performance on tasks that required carefulness," researchers concluded.
Earlier experiments found that people did a better job playing the game Operation after viewing photos of puppies and kittens. Researchers speculated that the cute images made subjects more attuned to being careful because baby animals suggest vulnerability.
"The perception of something as cute activates the idea of something delicate and breakable... valuable and worth caring for," said Gary Sherman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and one of the authors of that earlier research.
The Hiroshima study, titled The Power of Kawaii (kawaii roughly translates to cute) found that the "cute factor" helped people performing other detail-oriented tasks, not just those involving fine motor skills.
So go ahead and hang that poster of a puppy asleep on a shoe in your cubicle. "If people had the inclination to surround themselves with cuteness in the office, I wouldn't discourage that," Sherman said.
"Cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work," the study said.
The effect "seems to be more generalized" beyond only fine motor skills, Sherman said. "That does extend the domains and types of tasks that could be impacted."
This means anyone who has to do work that requires careful attention, such as copyediting or accounting, could benefit. So the next time your boss catches you perusing CuteOverload.com, tell them what looks like a kitten in a basket is really a performance-optimizing tool.
More money and business news: