Truth or Myth: Yawning is Contagious

November 3, 2011

Yawning TogetherI’m pretty sure that there was a time before where you’ve yawned right after the yawn of the person beside you. Even so, just thinking about it, or seeing pictures of it, simply wants to make you yawn. Have you ever had one of those experiences where you ended up saying: “Oh man! Why did you yawn?! Now I’ll definitely… *yawn*…yawn too! See!”

Here is an incident that has happened to me a whole lot of times now. And just so you know, I am yawning as we speak. Contagious Yawning has sprung a big question out of everyone: “Why does it happen?”

Empathy and Social Bonding

Studies prove that yawning is both a part of a person’s empathy, and a form of social bonding to other people. (Now that’s a cool way to bond.) According on a laboratory test made by psychologists, the easier it is for you to naturally yawn after the yawn of others, the more likely you will have a more empathetic connection to the people around you. Because of this, it’s almost safe to say that the part of the brain that deals with empathy may be correlated to contagious yawning.

In further studies, yawning is used to detect signs that suggest mental disorder in some children. At an early age (around 4 years old), empathy is already visible, as part of cognitive development. Experts give a test to them. An assistant would yawn for several times. If the child would have no response, it could suggest that he/she has not developed empathy yet, which may mean that a part of that child’s brain is either underdeveloped or delayed in its development.

Cantagious YawningHerding Behavior

Another possible explanation for contagious yawning is an attitude known as herding behavior. Here’s an example: In your family, when one of you yawns, a domino effect would eventually happen, where one family member would cause another member to yawn, and another family member, and so on. Since yawning is conceived as a sign of sleepiness, everyone would grasp the idea that it is time for some rest. Everyone else would follow.

Yawning is not an exclusive activity for humans. Animals, such as dogs, cats, snakes and even some birds, experience this involuntary reflex, although it does not reflect the same cause as humans have.

I am not entirely sure if how this chunk of information would be relevant in our lives. Not all questions in this world promise great significance, but we find joy in their answers anyway. So. Is yawning contagious? Well, if you yawned at one point while reading this article, then I rest my case. I yawn, You yawn, Everybody yawns.