Are Yawns Really Contagious?
FRIDAY, May 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- We've all "caught" yawning from other people, but why that happens is unclear, according to a psychologist who has researched the behavior.
"In short, we don't know why yawns are contagious," said Meredith Williamson, a clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine. "Researchers used to think that yawning was only signaling a need for sleep, but now they believe that it can communicate a shift in alertness or boredom."
One theory is that contagious yawning is related to empathy, and that people with higher levels of empathy yawn more often when someone else yawns, compared to people with lower levels of empathy or those with a mental disorder.
"Researchers have seen that yawning may not be as contagious to people with autism or schizophrenia," Williamson said in a university news release. "More research is being done to determine the cause of this."
She also noted that children under the age of 4 and older adults are less likely to yawn in response to somebody else yawning.
Yawning may be an unspoken form of communication, but it's not unique to people, Williamson added. Some species of primates and canines yawn in response to each others' yawns, and dogs will even yawn after a person yawns.
Yawning is "multifactorial. It could be partly an innate form of communication or it could be related to empathy, or a bit of both combined with other factors," she suggested.
The Library of Congress has more on yawning (https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/yawn.html ).
SOURCE: Texas A&M College of Medicine, news release, April 2018
Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Henry Ford Allegiance Health or performed by Henry Ford Allegiance Health physicians.
All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.