Admit it – you like to watch cat videos on the internet. It’s okay, everyone does. The skyrocketing popularity of “internet celebrity” cats like Maru(1) and Lil’ Bub(2), whose antics are captured on youtube for millions of viewers from all over the world, is proof that deep down, we’re suckers for anything adorable.
But now, scientists have given us more reason to indulge in these videos. Studies have shown that they do more than give us the warm fuzzies – they can actually improve emotional regulation, reduce stress, and make us better at our jobs.
Procrastination Or Time Management Strategy?
Anecdotal accounts from various news sources indicate that many people watch cat videos online in order to procrastinate – to put off work-related tasks and other things that they just don’t want to do.
However, scientists are now saying that there’s no reason to feel guilty about engaging in this behavior (in moderation, of course) – because the emotional benefits can actually improve your performance in the long run.
A recent study conducted by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick discovered that many people watch cat videos while they’re supposed to be studying or working(3). But that doesn’t mean that their performance in those tasks was negatively effected.
In fact, Myrick said in a recent press release,
“Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward.”(4)
Increasing Happiness And Taking Care
While the study of cute animal videos and their effect on us may seem frivolous, Myrick thinks it’s significant, especially with the advent of an age where many people are almost constantly connected to the internet.
Indeed, she’s not the first person to look into the effects that cuteness can have on our psyches – and our behavior.
One 2012 study based out of Hiroshima, Japan sought to analyze “the power of kawaii”, or cuteness, over our functioning in basic tasks. What they found was that students performed better on tasks involving fine motor dexterity after viewing cute images of puppies and kittens(5).
Interestingly, the students who viewed pictures of puppies and kittens performed better than the students who viewed pictures of fully-grown dogs and cats. The students who viewed the cuter images took more care in the performance of their tasks, causing the researchers to conclude that “cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.”
A similar study performed in 2009 drew almost the exact same conclusion, hypothesizing that “the human sensitivity to those possessing cute features may be an adaptation that facilitates caring for delicate human young.”(6)
Whether the reason is emotional or evolutionary, or some mix of both, it’s clear that you don’t need to feel as guilty about indulging in cat videos as you think.