It’s probably not going to blow your mind to hear that dog videos are good for you. We’re not just basing that on our own internet history: several studies from around the world have linked watching cute animal content with reduced stress levels, improved mood, and even happier marriages. Although it might be a harder sell to suggest they’re good for your focus and productivity. After all, who hasn’t tumbled into a rabbit hole of content then looked up to realise it’s 2AM.
Puppies Can Make You More Detail Oriented
This theory has been floating around since 2012 when Japanese researchers looked at how viewing cute images could impact an individual’s performance on a selection of varied tasks. They took note of how participants did before and after viewing images of puppies and kittens. Reporting on the results they noted: “participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images.”
The Power of Cute Video Breaks
Six years later professors Lori R. Kogan and Peter W. Hellyer from Colorado State University looked at whether watching animal videos could enhance the mood, attention, and retention of students in Pharmacology Lectures. Specifically, they wondered if taking short breaks during a veterinary pharmacology lecture to watch cute dog videos could potentially impact “students’ mood, interest in material, and perceived understanding of material.”
Across the 20 day course they showed a class of 133 students a series of YouTube videos of cats and dogs on random days (so for 10 days they saw one, and 10 days they didn’t). Again, they reported “significant differences,” noting that on the days the students viewed the videos their mood, interest, and understanding of material was positively affected.
Jessica Myrick, Associate Professor of Media Studies, Pennsylvania State University, saw similar results when looking at the impact cat videos (close enough) had on people’s moods. She surveyed 7000 internet users and found (not surprisingly) “that watching cat videos can give people a quick boost of happiness and energy.”
Obviously, that’s negated if you then waste the next hour on the internet. But the bump in mood can help you stay engaged when you start feeling a bit bleary in the middle of the day. In a recent article for the Conversation, Jessica adds: “some research suggests that taking short breaks for a mood-boosting activity, be it petting an actual dog or watching a video of one online, may not only improve your mood but also decrease stress or re-energize you when you do return to your work.”
The Science Behind the Boost
University of Victoria neuroscientist Olav Krigolson has looked into what happens to your brain when you see something cute and unexpected (say when you’re tagged in great dog videos on Instagram). He found that our brains perceived the experience as a reward, so give a little chemical boost of dopamine.
Speaking to CBC in 2017 he explained, “Staring at cute things activates the amygdala and other emotional areas of the brain, which ramps up other cognitive systems.” That increased activity can improve short term cognitive function. Basically, when you feel better you work better.
Don’t need to tell us twice!
For more distracting dog content, check out: