The Yawning Mystery: Why We “Catch” It

Is it really linked to empathy as we've always thought?

The Yawning Mystery: Why We “Catch” It

A yawn is like a bad cold: infectious and hard to fight. Once one person starts to yawn, the ripple effect kicks off and everyone around takes a deep, collective yawn. But is linked to empathy as we’ve always thought? 

Huffington Post recently posted findings from a study conducted by the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation about the origins of yawning. The study, published in the journal, PLOS One, tested 328 healthy participants to get to the bottom of the phenomenon of contagious yawning. The participants were shown a three-minute yawning video and recorded for the number of times they yawned as well as tested for cognition, emotion, and fatigue. 

Researchers in this study did not find a strong correlation between contagious yawning and empathy, intelligence, or time or day. According to the study, contagious yawning is linked more to age than empathy. More than 80 percent of people under 25 yawned contagiously, while the percentage steadily declined with age. Only 60 percent of 25 to 49 year olds and 41 percent of people over 50 did. 

So, how can this research help? People with autism or schizophrenia, demonstrate less contagious yawning despite still yawning spontaneously. A better understanding of yawning could lead to a deeper insight into these diseases. 

Check out their adorable slideshow of cute animals yawning. (Huffington Post)  


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