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Do Cute Dog Photos Improve Work Productivity?

| Published on January 11, 2020

Whether checking social media accounts, responding to messages, or watching clips of cute puppies throwing tantrums, we are easily pulled away from our work. They call it cyberslacking and the struggle and impact on productivity is real. But what if we are wrong? What if these mini breaks to take in a slideshow of heartwarming cuteness actually improves productivity? One woman intends to find out. 

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Research Being Conducted on Cute Photos and Productivity 

Jennifer Ragsdale is a University of Tulsa professor who studies industrial-organizational psychology. She and her team of researchers are setting out to determine if cyberslacking or cyberloafing can actually improve workplace productivity, rather than inhibit it. She told the Wall Street Journal, “Cyberslacking and cyberloafing are seen as deviant work behavior, whereas I’m trying to figure out if it has some beneficial work effect.”

Three Kinds of Breaks Being Studied

Ragsdales intends to test her hypothesis with a controlled study. The experiment will rely on a group of 150 participants. Each participant will be put into a stressful work situation, attempting to complete assignments while being exposed to distractions that people face in real-life working situations. For example, while trying to complete their assignment, stand-in coworkers will bombard participants with messages. 

The stressed-out worker bees will be given structured breaks to alleviate their stress and help them get back to work. The participants will be broken into one of three stress-relief groups. One group will work on a puzzle, on group will perform meditation, and the last will view a series of super cute animal photos. Stress levels will be measured to determine which activity was most effective at relieving stress. 

Only Pics with the Highest Cuteness Factor will Be Shown

One of the most unique aspects of this study is how the researchers came to choose the images that will be used for the cute photo stress relief group. The team asked respondents to rate a series of cute animal photos from 1 to 100 in terms of adorability. Then the researchers stepped in and filtered those that were rated the cutest into a group that had just the right level of cuteness: super sweet looking but not overwhelmingly cute to the point of total distraction. 

Ironically, one of the researchers said that this task was actually a little stressful. “It was relaxing in the sense we got to look at the pictures, but it was stressful when people disagreed,” she told the WSJ. “I don’t think it evoked the relaxing experience we’re hoping to evoke in the study.” 

Fingers Crossed the Cute Pics Win!

Wouldn’t it be great to have scientific research to back-up your desire to scroll through the iHeartDogs feed or view that cute kitten video your friend just posted to her Facebook page? Researcher Kirby Hockensmith, one of Ragsdale’s team members put it this way: “It would be nice to tell my boss, ‘Hey, looking at cats makes me more productive.’ ”

Although it will be a couple years or more before the research is fully completed and published, you can always make a case to your manager that looking at puppy photos brings your heart rate down so taking a couple minutes to look at them should be supported, right? We sure think so!


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