The secret to getting on at work: puppies and kittens

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kittensDPA DEUTSCHE PRESS-AGENTUR/DPA/Press Association Images

You might have thought that cramming your desk with cute photos of Fido and Fifi would be a one-way ticket to a career cul-de-sac. However, a new piece of research reveals it could dramatically transform your performance and help you stand out - in a good way.

So how could cute kittens boost your career?


The research

Researchers from Hiroshima University in Japan discovered the phenomenon, after carrying out research on three groups of students. One group looked at punctures of puppies and kittens, another looked at adult animals, and a third group looked at pictures of food.

The group that were presented with images of cute fluffiness increased their performance 10%, while those looking at adult animals also improved - but only 5%. Those looking at food probably felt a burning desire to eat lunch, but didn't see any increase in productivity.

In the online version of US science journal PLOS One, Hiroshi Nittono, one of the study's authors said: "This study shows that viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioural carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional focus."

"Cute features not only make objects more user-friendly and approachable, but also induce careful behavioural tendencies in the users, which is beneficial in specific situations, such as driving and office work."

He added: "The present findings provide a first hint to elucidate the psychological basis of the world-wide prevalence of cute things."

Don't go too far

However, there is a fine line when it comes to bringing in photos for your desk at work. A single photo of your pets, partner or children is generally considered to be acceptable - as is using one as your computer wallpaper. However, more than one, and you give off one of two negative messages that could harm your career.

If you are a full-time, hands-on employee, then endless pictures of your family and home life can be seen as a pointed expression of how much you miss them. They could be a sign you are unhappy with your work/life balance - and would much rather be at home with the people and pets who matter to you.

If you are part-time, or if you have returned to work after having a family, then a desk cluttered with lots of photos of your offspring and 'craft' items they have produced could be taken as a visible sign of where your real focus lies.

Of course, both of these hidden messages are utterly unfair, and if anyone shared them with you, you could have a clear case of victimisation, discrimination, or both.

The trouble is that no-one will share this information with you. They'll just silently judge.

The answer, therefore, may be to stick with one photo with a strong 'aww' factor, and have the research findings close to hand should anyone question your commitment to work.