JUN 21, 2016 04:29 PM PDT

I yawn, you yawn: the contagion of yawning


There are several hypotheses for the widely known phenomenon of contagious yawning. One of these is physiological hypotheses is called a "fixed action pattern," which is a sequence of behavioral acts triggered by a releasing stimulus that is unchangeable and usually carried to completion once initiated. This is similar to a reflex or domino effect - if you yawn, I yawn, and so does your cousin.

Another physiological hypothesis is known as non-conscious mimicry, or the "chameleon effect." This occurs when you imitate someone's behavior without knowing it as a subtle and unintentional copycat move. Scientists believe that this mimicry effect is possible because of mirror neurons, which respond similarly upon performing and observing someone else performing an action. It is because of these neurons that we learn through observation.

The last hypothesis is psychological, and called the "empathy yawn." This is the idea that when you yawn, I might yawn in accordance to express a sense of empathy for you. Studies have shown that it is more common for people to spread yawns among friends than among strangers.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 07, 2018
Here's How Far Your Sneeze Can Travel
When you get stuck with a cold or the flu, sneezes are inevitable. But have you ever wondered how far your sneezes travel? As it turns out, your sneeze may...
NOV 19, 2018
Videos
NOV 19, 2018
The Amazon's worst enemy
Brazil has a new leader, and he could be the Amazon’s biggest enemy yet. President Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to sell off large portions of the rainf...
NOV 22, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 22, 2018
Why Are Dandelion Seeds So Good at "Flying"?
The seeds of dandelions, pesky and irritating as they are, bear an extraordinary aerodynamic property that allows them to be carried far by the wind. In co...
NOV 24, 2018
Videos
NOV 24, 2018
Bats may Hold the Secret to Longevity
Some bats can live for up to 41 years, and many have a very healthy life....
NOV 26, 2018
Videos
NOV 26, 2018
How to get rid of jet lag
Have you ever gone on an amazing trip somewhere only to have it totally ruined by jet lag? Jet lag is what we experience when our internal clocks are throw...
DEC 08, 2018
Videos
DEC 08, 2018
Repairing Broken Bones With 3D-Printed Scaffolds
Titanium implants and bone grafts can be painful. Researchers are creating a better way to fix damaged bones....
Loading Comments...