Watching pictures and videos of cute animals is good for the brain

Sometimes it seems like there is no end to bad news on social media feeds. Plane crashes and other tragedies, unfulfilled promises by politicians, rising prices and a deteriorating economic situation… It would seem that the most reasonable thing is to simply close Facebook and return from the virtual world to real life. But sometimes, for one reason or another, this is not possible. However, it is in our power to find an “antidote” in the vastness of the same Internet. For example, look at the images … of baby animals.

Such “therapy” may seem unscientific, but in fact, the effectiveness of this approach is confirmed by the results of research. When we look at something cute, stress levels decrease, productivity increases, and this activity can also strengthen our marriage.

The nature of our emotion was explained by the Austrian animal psychologist Konrad Lorenz: we are attracted to creatures with large heads, huge eyes, plump cheeks and large foreheads, because they remind us of our own babies. The pleasure that our ancestors gave to the contemplation of their babies made them take care of the children. So it is today, but our sympathy extends not only to human cubs, but also to pets.

Mass communications researcher Jessica Gall Myrick has been studying the emotions that funny animals evoke in us, photos and videos of which we find on the Internet, and found that we feel the same warmth as when interacting with real babies. For the brain, there is simply no difference. “Even watching videos of kittens helps test subjects feel better: they feel a surge of positive emotions and energy.”

Myrick’s study involved 7000 people. They were interviewed before and after viewing photos and videos with cats, and it turned out that the longer you look at them, the more pronounced the effect. The scientists suggested that since the images evoked positive emotions in the subjects, they expected the same emotions from viewing similar pictures and videos in the future.

Maybe it’s time to unfollow the “rich and famous” and follow the tailed and furry “influencers”

True, scientists write that, perhaps, people who are not indifferent to animals were more willing to take part in the study, which could affect the results. In addition, 88% of the sample consisted of women who tend to be more touched by the cubs of animals. By the way, another study found that after subjects were shown pictures of cute farm animals, women’s appetite for meat dropped more than men. Perhaps the fact is that, as a rule, it is women who take care of the babies.

Hiroshi Nittono, director of the Cognitive Psychophysiological Laboratory at Osaka University, has been conducting several studies on “kawaii,” a concept that means everything that is cute, lovely, cute. According to him, viewing “kawaii” images has a double effect: firstly, it distracts us from situations that cause boredom and stress, and secondly, “reminds us of warmth and tenderness – feelings that many of us lack.” “Of course, the same effect can be achieved if you read soulful books or watch similar films, but, you see, this takes more time, while viewing pictures and videos helps to quickly fill the gap.”

Moreover, it can have a positive effect on romantic relationships. A 2017 study found that when couples look at pictures of cute animals together, the positive feelings they elicit from the viewing are associated with their partner.

At the same time, you need to be careful with the choice of platforms for viewing such photos and videos. So, as a result of another study conducted in 2017, it turned out that Instagram does us the most emotional harm, partly because of how users of this social network present themselves. When we see the “ideal life of ideal people”, many of them become sad and bad.

But this is not a reason to delete your account. Perhaps it’s time to unfollow the “rich and famous” and subscribe to the tailed and furry “influencers”. And your brain will thank you.

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