A cute effort

Iíve always associated increasing productivity with working harder. After all, productivity bears success and the price of success is hard work. And hard work means spending more time at the office, taking shorter breaks and skipping the occasional lunch just to meet deadlines.

True, doing more work more ofter might lead to increased productivity, which is a good deal if I donít mind putting in a little extra time and forfeiting any hint of a social life. But new research suggests thereís an easier way that I can boost productivity simply by hanging a picture of a cute baby panda bear on the wall of my cubicle Ė one with a round face and big blue eyes that stare back at me every time I sit in front of the keyboard.

It sounds dumb, but exposure to cuteness is believed to bolster productivity, according to recent studies conducted by Hiroshima University in Japan. The study indicates that cute, furry faces (like those of baby pandas) set off a humanís innate desire to become more nurturing. Evidently, weíre drawn to cute, cuddly things that exemplify youth, vulnerability and harmlessness. Cuteness even has an effect that triggers pleasure centers of the brain, the same pleasure centers aroused by good food or habit-forming drugs.

The warm, tingly feeling people are left with when they see something adorable puts their minds more at ease, allowing them to think more clearly and better digest information; which makes me question why I ever worked hard in the first place, especially when thereís the much easier alternative of watching YouTube videos of cats playing the piano.

If thereís any truth to the study, I question why more people havenít used this uncanny potential of cuteness to get work done. Maybe itís something to consider; and just think of the benefits: Those seemingly endless summertime road construction projects would be completed in two weeks if road crews were greeted by a flower basket full of puppies. The cable guy would be on time if he had a photo of a sea otter taped to his dashboard. And Congress could pass an on time budget if only the pages of the budget were watermarked with an image of Hello Kitty.

And in The Evening Sun newsroom, I might have finished additional story assignments for the annual Progress Chenango edition weeks before deadline if only I had a heart-melting image of a baby kangaroo as the desktop picture on my desktop.

Admittedly, the entire cuteness/productivity study sounds absurd Ė even too good to be true for some (and we all know the way of the world. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is). But this cuteness theory has been around a long time, just never proven. In retrospect, the study makes sense of those cutesy wootsy motivation posters we all saw in grade school. In fourth grade for example, I distinctly remember my teacher hanging a poster near the front of the room. On it was a picture of a kitten clinging to the end of tree limb with a sub caption that read ďHang in there.Ē

I did very well in that class.

Whether cuteness actually invokes productivity or the notion is merely a self-fulfilling prophecy is something to ponder. In any respect, what hurt is it to have big brown puppy-dog eyes greeting you at your desk every morning? The thought alone is almost enough to replace my morning cup of coffee ... almost.

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