It is official, you no longer have to minimize the window every time you’re watching cat videos at work and your boss walks by. Cat videos are good for your mental health and increase workplace productivity! Science said so, in a journal article from a researcher at Indiana University. Nearly seven thousand people participated in the study.
According to the article, as of 2014, there were more than 2 million cat videos on YouTube and they had nearly 26 billion total views, which makes an average of 12,000 views for each cat video. This popularity of cat videos has made “celebrities” of regular household cats, such as Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. There are even books like How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom by Patricia Carlin, which we have a copy of at the McAllen Public Library’s Palm View Branch.
The study’s author proposes that internet cat videos are used to regulate mood- in other words, to cheer yourself up. She states that, “Because images of Internet cats are typically cute and funny in nature, hedonic valence is the message feature that may be drawing so many users to view Internet cats. These positively-toned images/videos may be a readily available way to regulate emotional states in the digital era. However, those who are already animal lovers (in particular, cat lovers) may also be drawn to the content due to semantic affinity with their real pets.”
Cute and humorous media such as cat videos are often used for procrastination at work or during study time or to avoid doing other unpleasant tasks. This procrastination then creates feelings of guilt that are associated with the cat videos.
However, research has shown that certain personality types (those who are introverted or shy) are linked to greater internet use and an affinity for cats. Therefore, it is likely that those personality types would combine those interests into an affinity for internet cat videos.
Mood management, procrastination, and personality type are the reasons people are drawn to cat videos, but there are interesting and positive results from this viewing. Research has shown that viewing images of cute animals promotes attention to detail, can re-energize viewers, and help them pay more attention to subsequent tasks. You can tell that to your boss next time you are watching cat videos instead of working on an important project.
The author warns at the end of the article that more research needs to be done, because the survey participants were mostly female and mostly of the same age, and were not representative of internet users as a whole.
Cats have been popular media subjects since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians made statues of them, drew them on their walls, and mummified them in order to continue into the next world with their owners. Ancient Egyptians would likely completely understand our fascination with internet cats. As the author says, “In the modern era of digital media, it is hard to deny that cats have clawed their way into the zeitgeist of the Internet. While the topic of online cat-related media consumption may seem, on the surface, a lighthearted one for serious academic inquiry, the global popularity of such media and the historical roots of feline-focused media should encourage Internet, media, and psychology researchers to take note.”
Read the article in its entirety here.