The Case for Cute Kitty Videos: Study Shows Distractions Help You Focus

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Now you have a good excuse when your boss catching you looking at LOLcats on the computer.

New research from the University of Illinois shows that brief diversions may actually help you concentrate and improve your overall work performance.

While this doesn’t mean that you should spend half the work day watching Britney Spears videos or perusing NewsFeed — although we would support that decision fully — this study does help us understand why we get distracted in the first place.

(More on TIME.com: Could Watching Viral Videos Enhance Creative Thinking?)

According to Alejandro Lleras, a professor at the university’s Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, attention doesn’t just run out after a lengthy period of focus. Instead, he likens it to a gas tank, which needs to be refilled during short breaks.

To test his theory, Lleras asked groups of students to focus on various numbers flashing on a computer for an hour. One group received no breaks, while others were told to memorize numbers and wait for those to pop up on the screen. The groups that had the diversions were able to sustain their concentration, while the other group’s attention waned after only 20 minutes.

(More on NewsFeed: Pep-Talk Viral Video: Life Lessons from Films in Seven Minutes.)

“It’s unrealistic to expect people to focus at high levels for a long period of time,” Lleras told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s important to create an environment where it’s OK to take small breaks.”

Tell that to your boss. (via Physorg.com)

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