Why is yawning contagious?


Did this picture cause you to yawn? Upon seeing someone yawn, many people have the urge to yawn also. Why is this? why could yawning be “contagious”? Its not a disease so how can we “catch” a yawn from someone else doing it? These questions have bothered me for sometime and I have finally found out the answer!

If that picture did make you yawn that might mean you are more empathetic than the people who did not yawn while looking at it. That’s right, studies show that contagious yawning may be linked with how empathetic you are. A study done at Leeds University in England went like this;  researchers chose 40 psychology students, whose many focus is to observe others, and 40 engineering students, who don’t focus on others for their profession. Each student sat in a waiting room with one single other person who was placed there by the researcher and told to yawn ten times throughout the time they were waiting. After this they were giving a test to measure how much empathy they showed toward others.


The results of this test were that the students who yawned more frequently, also scored higher on the empathy test. The psychology students were showed more empathy with an average score of 28 out of 40 compared to 25.5 out of 40 for the engineering students.  The psychology students also yawned 5.5 times on average compared to the engineering students average of 1.5 times. These results are also consistent with the information that neurologists found. They found that contagious yawning and empathy are controlled by the same parts of the brain.

How many times did you yawn while reading this post? It may tell a lot about you!

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