Why Do We Yawn When Others Yawn?


Studies say that an average adult yawns about twenty times per day and they also state that it is almost impossible to suppress a yawn.We yawn when we’re bored or if we are feeling sleepy and tired in fact, almost seventy percent of people who see a person yawn in real life, in a photo, or read about someone else yawning forces them to do the same thing. But the real question is why do we yawn if we see someone else who does? What is the reason why we yawn? That’s what we’re going to demystify in this article.

Why Do We Yawn?

To tell all of you frankly, there is no exact scientific explanation why we yawn. But some theory suggests that when humans get tired we tend to stop taking deep breaths and this causes a build-up of carbon dioxide in the body. Experts say that yawning may be a special kind of respiration and it builds up oxygen in our body quickly while ejecting carbon dioxide. Other theory states that the purpose of yawning is to refresh the brain and stretch our internal organs such as tissues and lungs to help our body boost up.

Why is Yawning Contagious?

Research says that the reason that yawning is so hard to resist, especially when you see someone doing it, is because of one area in the brain that is responsible for motor function. Scientists call the contagious yawning as a type of echophenomenon. This means that it is an automatic reaction of another person. Other types of echophenomenon include echopraxia or the imitation of someone’s actions and echolalia which means the imitation of someone’s words.

Contagious yawning is not a phenomenon that only happens to humans. Other animals such as chimpanzees and dogs are also vulnerable to this spectacle. But scientists say that the real reason why yawns spread from one person to another is still unknown.

Yawning is Another Sign of Empathy

Yawning when you see somebody else yawn might be some unconscious sign that you are in harmony with their emotions, just like the same way that someone might automatically frown or smile whenever someone does the same to them. A research done in the University of Connecticut backed up this theory because they found out that most children are not susceptible to the contagious yawning until they were around four years old, the age when empathy skills begin to develop in a human being. The research also found that young people who have autism, who may have a little trouble feeling empathy, are less likely to catch the contagious yawn.

Although this is still a controversial theory and more research is needed, but a study that was done in 2015 found that persons with some certain psychopathic traits are less likely to catch a yawn when they see someone yawning. This is after a standard psychological personality test was done where 135 college students were shown short video clips with different facial expressions such as yawning. The research said that the less empathetic a person is, the less likely he or she was to catch a yawn.

Age Matters

Some research shows that the younger you are, the more likely you are to catch yawns from other people. One study shows that in 328 people who were shown video clips of people yawning, about 82 percent of the people aged 25 and below contagiously yawned, while 60 percent of the people from ages 25 to 49 contagiously yawned. And from the age group of 50 and above, only 41 percent of them contagiously yawned. Indeed, more research is needed to really figure out why we catch yawns from other people. It may be just because of our age, how our body functions, or just another unexplainable human behavior. What we just know is that it is very hard to hold back a yawn.  In fact, just reading the word yawn can make you yawn, right? We are sorry if you’ve yawned your way into reading this article. Trust us, we yawned just as much as you did.

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