Unlike real puppies, Instapuppies won’t lower blood pressure or enhance relaxation. However, they do have a surprising and unique physiological effect on us.
Research shows that looking at pictures of cute animals causes emotional stimulation and, in one study, the cuter the animal, the more excited we get. This was demonstrated when participants were asked to hold bubble wrap while viewing photos of various animals. They popped more bubbles when shown pictures of cute animals as opposed to funny or boring animals. Further analysis reveals that the need to squeeze or squish things is an aggressive response to cuteness and the brain’s way of controlling an intense blast of positive emotion. This neurotransmitter conflict creates a sort of energy boost or natural pick-me-up.
Furthermore, a Japanese study found that looking at baby animal photos can enhance concentration. Tasks requiring careful focus were completed with better results after viewing photos of puppies and kittens. On the contrary, when participants were shown pictures of food or adult animals, their performance was not enhanced. The researchers suggest that images of puppies and kittens might be used to improve activities like driving or office work.
Just like real puppies, when Instapuppies mature, they no longer have the kindchenschema (or baby face) to trigger these responses. But with over 300 million active accounts, it is relatively easy to find new puppies on Instagram. Search for hashtags #instapuppy, #instapuppies, #[breed]puppy, #puppiesofinstagram, or visit accounts like @cutepetclub and follow a tagged pup. Feel free to check out the puppy accounts that I’m following at @gail_ingram. I usually follow 50 puppies at any given time because an Instapuppy buzz is healthier than a Red Bull.