The advent and widespread adoption of the Internet has led to something those early web developers probably never imagined: a massive proliferation of baby animal pictures, videos, and memes. If you can believe it, there are actually dozens of researchers out there who study the neuroscience of “cuteness,” and their research results may surprise you.
Scientists have found that looking at pictures of cute things triggers a dopamine release in the brain, not unlike what happens when you do other pleasurable things like fall in love, eat cheesecake, or do cocaine.
And if you’re feeling guilty about looking at those hamster videos or kitten gifs at work, here is a fact you can cite to your boss: a 2012 study from Japan found that looking at cute baby animals led to better focus and concentration on subsequent tasks.
To learn more about your brain and cuteness, check out this excellent video from the Washington Post about what makes your brain perceive something as “cute.”