Is Yawning Contagious?

Yawning is a common reflexive action that most, if not all, humans experience. Ever wondered why it seems that when someone around you yawns, you too feel the urge to yawn? Is yawning contagious or is it all in our heads? Let’s dive into this somewhat perplexing, yet interesting phenomenon.

What is Yawning?

Before exploring if yawning is contagious, it’s important to first understand what yawning is. Yawning is a reflex action in which a large breath is inhaled and then opened mouth is exhaled. It is associated with sleepiness and fatigue.

What Causes Yawning?

Yawning is caused by a number of factors, some physiological and some psychological. Physiological causes of yawning include the parasympathetic nervous system and an increase in serotonin. Psychological causes of yawning include mental fatigue, social conditioning, boredom, and the stress response.

How Common is Yawning?

Yawning is an incredibly common phenomenon. Research shows that people tend to yawn an average of four to five times a day. Yawning has been observed in over 25 species, meaning it is not exclusive to humans.

The Debate Behind Yawning Contagiously

The concept of yawning being contagious has long been debated. It is suggested that contagious yawning is an contagious expression of empathy. This is because contagious yawning is much more prominent in humans than in other species. Furthermore, it is particularly high among close family and friends, suggesting this is an expression of empathy.

Contradictory to this, some research suggests that contagious yawning is a conditioned response or an indication of group coordination. For example, research by McAndrew and colleagues found that people were more likely to yawn contagiously when in a group than when by themselves.

Is Yawning Contagious?

The jury is still out regarding whether yawning is contagious. On one hand, research indicates that contagious yawning is an expression of empathy, particularly in humans. On the other hand, the point has been made that contagious yawning is more of a conditioned response than empathy. However, what we can say is that contagious yawning is a very common phenomenon in humans that many of us experience.

Factors Behind Yawning Contagiously

There are several factors that seem to influence whether you are more likely to yawn contagiously:

  1. Genetics: Research suggests that contagious yawning may be partly influenced by genetics. For example, a study observing fraternal and identical twins found that the likelihood of one twin contagious yawning was much higher if both the siblings were either fraternal or identical twins.

  2. Age: Contagious yawning peaks around the ages of four to five and then decreases as people age.

  3. Gender: Females are more likely than males to contagious yawn.

  4. Empathy: People with higher levels of empathy are more likely contagious yawn than those with low levels of empathy.

The phenomenon of contagious yawning is a highly debated, however intriguing topic. There are people on both sides of the debate, those that believe that contagious yawning is an expression of empathy and those that suggest it is more of a response to a conditioned stimulus. What we can conclude is that contagious yawning is incredibly common and has been found to be more prominent in humans more than other species. Furthermore, there are several factors that influence contagious yawning, such as genetics, age, gender and empathy.