As if we weren’t already won over by adorable puppies, The Association for Psychological Science published a study on Sage Journals which suggests that looking at cute animal pictures can improve marital satisfaction.
The study set out to test the theory of evaluative conditioning, which is the exposure of a subject to repeated associations. The most famous case of evaluative conditioning is the Pavlov experiment and lead researcher James McNulty used it as a theoretical basis. McNulty wanted to test if positive thoughts can lead to positive feelings when the stimulus is completely unrelated to the subject.
Cute Animal Pictures Improve Marital Satisfaction
For the experiment, 144 married couples were asked to view a stream of images once every three days for six weeks. The couples were split into two groups. One group had to look at an image of their spouse next to a cute, furry animal while the other was shown a neutral image next to their spouse. With previous data regarding their satisfaction with their marriage and their attitudes towards their spouses, researchers compared the results.
The team noticed that those exposed to the cute pictures showed a more immediate positive reaction to their partners over the course of the experiment than those exposed to the neutral pictures. James McNulty shares:
I was actually a little surprised that it worked. All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should, but existing theories of relationships, and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage, made me skeptical.
A previous experiment conducted in Japan showed that looking at cute animal photos can boost work performance.
The experiment was commissioned by the Department of Defense as a way to help couples with marital problems or separation issues.
Image source: animalplanet.com