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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


12 November 2012

Post-Sandy and The Power of Cute (Kawaii!!)

(Post-Sandy reunited)
Hi there Mia, 

This is all incredibly moving. When natural disasters strike, the damage looks so different depending on geography. Our natural disasters don’t tend to include koalas, although Sandy did cause major trouble for the NYC Aquarium (water was the big problem).

Post-Sandy Support
The local aid and support has been tremendous.

Animal Aid and Grants
As of today, a Facebook group called Hurricane Sandy Lost and Found Pets has 25,158 likes, up from 7,200 likes on 11/2/2012.

The ASPCA has been involved in various relief efforts, and their Grant Department is fielding requests from shelters and other animal welfare groups affected by Sandy. The ASPCA is expediting the process for Emergency and Disaster Response Grants.

UWSiders Help out (Source @kittykatmc)
Apart from national relief programs, there are many local efforts (big and small) to get all kinds of supplies and goods to Staten Island and other areas hit hard.

This has been a trying time for many, and it reminds me that good stuff is often found in unexpected places.

Cute Helps?
A recent study explored the phenomenon of Kawaii. Kawaii is a Japanese word meaning “cute,” and it is often considered associated with positive feelings. But can this phenomenon be measured concretely? And what does it reveal?

A recent study (Nittono et al., 2012) explored whether humans perform better at certain tasks after looking at "cute" images.

Can cute help with tasks requiring focused attention and carefulness?
Study details
Participants performed a fine motor dexterity task, similar to the children’s game Operation (the actual game used was the Bilibili Dr. game -- sidenote: based on my success rate when fishing toast out of the toaster, I owe Operation the continued use of my fingers).

Participants then viewed images of cute puppies and kittens or "not-as-cute" adult dogs and cats.

Kawaii!!!! Cute!!!!
Cute effect?
Participants’ performance was enhanced after viewing cute images, particularly when the task required focused attention and carefulness.

You can use Kawaii!!!!!!
The authors note, Kawaii things not only make us happier, but also affect our behavior.” Viewing cute images could improve performance on tasks requiring carefulness and focused attention.   

Possible applications?
  • About to go for a drive? Look at a cute puppy video
  • Prepping for some office work? Flip open a cute kitten calendar

I don’t know if the study authors would deem this “cute,” but it works for me.

Cute in my book!
What's up in your neck of the woods?


Nittono H., Fukushima M., Yano A. & Moriya H. (2012). The power of kawaii: viewing cute images promotes a careful behavior and narrows attentional focus., PloS one, PMID:

© Julie Hecht 2012
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