Spending time looking at cute baby animals during work can no longer incur your boss's wrath: Those pictures actually make you a faster, more careful worker, according to a new study by Hiroshima University

A team led by Hiroshi Nittono had 48 male and female students perform a visual task where they were asked to look for double digits in a series of random matrices with numbers. The students were asked to give as many accurate responses as possible in three minutes. Then, the students looked at pictures before doing the task again. One group looked at cute baby animals, another at less cute adult animals, and a third at pleasant-looking food.

As you can see in the chart above, the group that looked at baby animals gave far more accurate answers after looking at the photos than the other two groups. The Y-axis represents the number of correct answers. While all three groups did about the same before looking at photos, the baby animal group did far better after examining puppies and kittens, versus dogs and cats or sushi and steak. The scientists concluded that pictures of baby animals made the study participants more focused and more careful, "induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion."

"For future applications," the study says, "cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work."

Photos, left to right, via AP, MowT/flickr, and mobob/flickr