Good Question – Is Yawning Contagious?

By: Jeff Herndon Email
By: Jeff Herndon Email

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

A viewer asks, “Is yawning really contagious?” Good question.

There are many theories about the act of yawning. Why do we yawn? Some believe it’s because we are tired. Others say it’s lack of oxygen. A study in 2007 suggested it was a way to “cool down” the brain. Some say it’s to stabilize the pressure between the ear drums. But we’re not talking about why we yawn, but rather, whether or not it’s contagious.

Studies suggest that in fact, yawning is contagious. Researchers believe that by observing another person’s yawning face could trigger you to yawn. The same study suggests that even reading about or thinking about yawning could cause you to yawn.

If that’s true, then if you’re reading this right now, you are probably going to yawn.

Some researchers conclude that contagious yawning could be based on the capacity for empathy.

Some studies say that yawning and sleepiness are not related.

It’s not just humans who experience contagious yawning. A study by the University of London found 21 of 29 dogs yawned when a human yawned in front of them.

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