Are yawns really contagious?

May 26, 2018

(HealthDay)—We've all "caught" yawning from other people, but why that happens is unclear, according to a psychologist who has researched the behavior.

"In short, we don't know why yawns are contagious," said Meredith Williamson, a clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine. "Researchers used to think that yawning was only signaling a need for sleep, but now they believe that it can communicate a shift in alertness or boredom."

One theory is that is related to empathy, and that people with of empathy more often when someone else yawns, compared to people with lower levels of empathy or those with a .

"Researchers have seen that yawning may not be as contagious to people with autism or schizophrenia," Williamson said in a university news release. "More research is being done to determine the cause of this."

She also noted that children under the age of 4 and are less likely to yawn in response to somebody else yawning.

Yawning may be an unspoken form of communication, but it's not unique to people, Williamson added. Some species of primates and canines yawn in response to each others' yawns, and dogs will even yawn after a person yawns.

Yawning is "multifactorial. It could be partly an innate form of communication or it could be related to empathy, or a bit of both combined with other factors," she suggested.

Explore further: Women found to be more susceptible to contagious yawning than men

More information: The Library of Congress has more on yawning.

Related Stories

Women found to be more susceptible to contagious yawning than men

February 3, 2016
(Phys.org)—A trio of researchers with Università di Pisa, in Italy has found via observational study, that women are on average twice as likely to yawn after seeing someone else yawn, than are men. In their paper published ...

Why do we yawn and why is it contagious?

May 21, 2018
Consider the scenario. You're driving on a long, straight stretch of country highway at about 2pm on a sunny afternoon, and you're desperately keen to reach your destination. You're trying to stay alert and attentive, but ...

Contagious yawning more closely associated with perceptual sensitivity than empathy

September 5, 2017
Contagious yawning is a universal phenomenon, but why it happens remains a mystery.

Recommended for you

Study analyzes numbers, trends in health care data breaches nationwide

September 25, 2018
Health plans—entities that cover the costs of medical care—accounted for the greatest number of patient records breached over the past seven years, according to an analysis of U.S. health care data conducted by two Massachusetts ...

New study finds concurrent use of prescription drugs and dietary supplements could pose health risks

September 25, 2018
A new University of Hertfordshire study found that using certain over-the-counter herbal medicines and dietary supplements alongside prescription drugs could pose serious health risks, especially amongst older adults.

India launches 'Modicare', world's biggest health scheme

September 23, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched the world's biggest health insurance scheme, promising free coverage for half a billion of India's poorest citizens ahead of national elections next year.

It's not just for kids—even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

September 21, 2018
Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it's not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z's.

Most nations falling short of UN targets to cut premature deaths from chronic diseases

September 21, 2018
People in the UK, US and China have a higher risk of dying early from conditions like cancer, heart disease and stroke than people in Italy, France, South Korea and Australia.

Alcohol responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

September 21, 2018
Alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year—more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organization said Friday, adding that men are particularly at risk.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.