Don't You Dare Yawn

Sunday, August 03, 2008 2 comments

We all have experienced it. Someone yawns, and you just can’t help yourself, you have to yawn too. Even the sound of someone yawning will cause others to yawn also. Reading about it, and as I am quickly finding, writing about it, causes me to want to yawn. I used to get irritated with my mother, because it seemed that every time that she would call me that she would start yawning (maybe she was trying to subtly tell me something, although she would claim that it was because she would call just after finally settling down after a long day), and pretty soon, of course, I would be following suit, and it appeared we would just keep taking turns in this endless cycle. I would have to get off of the phone because I would end up with tears streaming down my face.

We all do it…well 55 percent of us do it after seeing someone else yawn. So what is it that causes us to yawn when others do?

Countless studies show that empathy towards others is very important in our development. It is linked with how much we value ourselves, and we learn empathy at a very early age, depending on how much empathy our parents showed us.

Psychologists at Leeds University in England conducted a study and found contagious yawning was linked to empathy. Through brain imaging neurologists also found evidence to support this theory, when it was shown that contagious yawning is associated with the same parts of the brain that deal with empathy. People with autism were also studied, since it is known that they have trouble connecting with others and find it difficult to feel empathy. And as suspected, those studies found that they were not susceptible to this phenomenon.

Now tell me, did you yawn while you were reading this?

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