Study: Watching Baby Animals Improves Cognition

Kawaii, the beneficial effects of cuteness

Article based on the findings of Hiroshi Nittono, Michiko Fukushima, Akihiro Yano, Hiroki Moriya.

Here is, maybe, your first Japanese lesson, we will start with the word: Kawaii. Kawaii means cute.

Note: learning and focus are managed in the brain by serotonin and Dopamine.

This study by Hiroshi Nittono, Michiko Fukushima, Akihiro Yano, Hiroki Moriya shows that if you look at the picture of a baby animal, an intense and relaxing effect will occur with the addition of an increased capacity to resolve complex motor or cognitive tasks.

Watching pictures of dogs and other animals and even delicious food did not have this impact on the brain.

“In humans, the stimuli are deemed cute, they capture attention, bring a smile to the viewer’s face and induce motivation and behavior for approach, learning and caregiving.

Baby faces modulate perception and attention immediately as you lay eyes on them and activates Dopamine function of the brain.

“Because cute things produce positive feelings, their influence may extend to other aspects of behavior.”

Researchers Sherman, Haidt, and Coan reported two experiments showing that performance in a fine motor dexterity task (the children’s game Operation where the participants have to remove tiny body parts from a plastic body with tweezers and without touching the edges) improved after participants viewed a slideshow of cute images (e.g., puppies and kittens) more than after they viewed images that were not as cute.

The authors explain that viewing those pictures makes them feel relaxed and they are better able to focus.

Note: relaxation is the product of good serotonin function

They also said that viewing of cuteness motivates social engagement and produces friendly tendencies.

The study also shows that when an adult individual is shown cute baby animals pictures and baby pictures, they always rate the baby picture as more cute.

The conclusion of the study declares that:

…perceiving cuteness not only improves fine motor skills but also increases perceptual carefulness.

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

Kawaii things not only make us happier but also affect positively our behavior.

Here is a public slideshow to make you feel happier


  • Alley TR (1983) Infantile head shape as an elicitor of adult protection. Merrill Palmer Q 29: 411–427.
  • Sherman GD, Haidt J, Coan JA (2009) Viewing cute images increases behavioral carefulness. Emotion 9: 282–286. doi:
  • Sprengelmeyer R, Perrett DI, Fagan EC, Cornwell RE, Lobmaier JS, et al. (2009) The cutest little baby face: a hormonal link to sensitivity to cuteness in infant faces. Psychol Sci 20: 149–154.

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