How many times do you catch yourself yawning in class? Most of the time you had a full night of sleep already, but the yawns just keep coming. You might attribute these yawns to the dull course material, but that is not always the reason for those yawns. There are many theories for why we yawn, but one of the biggest attributions to yawning is due to your brain being too hot. Yawning is a mechanism that is believed to cool down the brain. So the next time you find yourself yawning non-stop in class, perhaps you simply have an overheated brain!
Below is a animated video describing why we yawn:
As the video shows, yawns can be very contagious. The sound and sight of someone yawning is enough to induce the onset of yawning in most people. This phenomenon has greatly been associated with one’s capacity for empathy; it has been reported that contagious yawns reflect how much empathy one feels. However, a recent study found that empathy might not have anything to do with contagious yawning.
This second video talks more about contagious yawns and it’s association with empathy:
This study, conducted by researchers from Duke University, found that the only factor that could predict contagious yawning was age. The results suggested that empathy, intelligence and time of day were not strongly associated with contagious yawns. Much like other experiments done on contagious yawning, the experimenters showed a video of individuals yawning to the subjects and recorded the frequency of yawns stimulated by it. There was a clear decrease in contagious yawns with the increase in age. Possible explanations for these findings include a decrease in attention to the stimulus with age. Perhaps the decrease in contagious yawning with increase in age is because empathy might lower with age, as older people might feels less connected with others.
Overall, age and empathy seem to only explain very little of the variability in the contagious yawn response. This leaves much for researchers and future scientists to explore. Despite all the unanswered questions that still remain, one things is for certain: Yawns are very indeed very contagious.
How many times have you yawned already?
By: Kimberley Xiao