Why is yawning contagious? Some Interesting Science Behind Yawning


Ever been in a situation where you are randomly looking at a person and that person suddenly yawns, then you do too. It happens because it’s difficult to stop yawning especially when someone around you is doing it.

Yawning is a way for the body to take in a fresh supply of oxygen. That is the reason people tend to yawn when they are stressed. Also, the main reason is that the body is tired and requires a nap or some rest. Sometimes yawning can also suggest boredom.

Even though the significant reason for the ‘Contagious Yawning’ is still unknown, there are many theories for it.

One of the most popular theories for this phenomenon is mostly related to empathy. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of empathy tend to yawn more than people with lower levels of empathy or someone with a mental disorder such as autism or schizophrenia. Also yawning is not universal, children below the age of four and older adults tend to yawn less in response to others yawn.

However, the researchers from The Duke Center for Human Genome Variation contradicts the relationship between yawning and empathy. They had published an article named “Individual Variation in Contagious Yawning Susceptibility Is Highly Stable and Largely Unexplained by Empathy or Other Known Factors” in PLOS ONE. This article was based on their findings. They believe that as age increases people tend to yawn less. Researchers even said that the study on contagious yawning will help in a better understanding of sickness like schizophrenia and autism.

Why is Yawning Contagious? 

The scientists additionally discovered that the desire for "getting" a yawn was connected to the degrees of cerebrum action in an individual's motor cortex — the greater movement in the region, the more disposed the individual is a yawn. Without a doubt, when the scientists connected electrical flows to the territory, the desire to yawn had increased.

Contagious yawning is not only based on the fact that when a person sees another person then they tend to yawn. For many people listening to reading the word, yawn can also make them yawn. Spontaneous yawning occurs when we are either bored or tired. Findings have shown fetus yawning in the womb. Whereas contagious yawning begins only after the age of four.

Yawning is not the only phenomenon of humans, many animals are even believed to follow the same. Especially dogs share a special bond with their owners, by yawning after the person yawns.

Basically contagious yawning is a type of echo phenomenon – an automatic imitative response without self-awareness. Even though the exact reason is not being known, many research and studies are being conducted to know the reason.