Study by Japanese Researchers Finds Looking at Cute Images Improves Concentration

Posted on September 30, 2012

The Wall Street Journal reports on a study by Japanese scientists that found looking at cute images can improve concentration. The study, "The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus," was published in PLoS One. It was conducted by scientists from Hiroshima University.

In one experiment, participants had to perform a task where you remove small pieces from holes in a patient's body without touching the edges. The task is from the Bilibili Dr. game, which sounds similar to Operation in the U.S. The participants (48 university students, half men and half women) were divided into two groups. Participants had to remove small pieces from each of fourteen holes. They were instructed to perform the task at their own pace with the goal of obtaining the highest score possible. Each group had to complete the task twice. In a break between the two sessions, one group was shown images of puppies and kittens, while the other group was shown images of cats and dogs. The scores of the group that looked at puppies and kittens improved 44% during the second session, while the scores of the group that looked at adult cats and dogs changed little. The group that observed puppies and kittens also took 12% longer to complete the second session of removing pieces from the holes in the game.

In a second experiment, a second group of participants had to perform a visual task search on matrices. This experiment also involved groups of people performing the task twice with one group looking at kittens and puppies in between sessions, while another looked at images of dogs and cats. A third group was also added that looked at images of food during the break, such as pasta, sushi and steak. The group that observed kittens and puppies at the break saw their second set of scores improve 16%, while the groups that looked at cats and dogs or food images did no better the second time around.

There was also a third experiment, where another group of participants performed a reaction time experiment. There was not much difference between the people who saw cute images or non-cute images in this experiment.