Why Do We Yawn when Someone Else Yawns?

Why do we yawn? Yawning is one of the most curious things that human beings do. We may have observed that most people yawn when bored or feeling a bit sleepy. But scientists still haven’t found out what really causes us to yawn. And what makes yawning even more intriguing is the observation of yawning when we see another person yawns. So, why do we yawn when someone else yawns

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There are several theories as to why people yawn. Some of the theories also explain why we yawn when we see others yawn. One particular theory is that yawning is a way of communication. Yawning is theorized to have been practiced by our ancestors in prehistoric times. And this ability to communicate has been passed on to us throughout those years. Yawning is seen as a way to coordinate sleeping times in a group as prehistoric men slept together in open areas. So, we yawn when we see another person yawns as a response to their yawn.

Another theory on why we yawn when we see some else yawn is that yawning is a measure of one’s empathy. Yawning stimulated by another person’s yawn is viewed as a phenomenon related to the brain’s capacity to exhibit empathy. A study was conducted a Drexel University in 2005. Using fMRI scans, researchers have found that the self-processing area of the test subjects’ brains light up when viewing another person yawn. And the activities in this area suggest empathic reason for response.

Other evidences to prove this theory is that contagious yawning cannot be observed in children under 4 years of age. Children under 4 are less susceptible than adults to be affected by another person’s yawn. This suggests that the social development could play a role in contagious yawning. The same goes with people with autism. People with autism spectrum disorder rarely show any signs of contagious yawning. Autism spectrum disorder affects a person’s ability to socialize and those who have it presents an inability to put themselves in another person’s shoes.

The empathy theory seems to explain quite well why one feels like yawning when we see others yawn. And this empathy theory may as well have stemmed out from the evolutionary theory of yawning.

Yawning simply seems to be our way to communicate and relate to other people.

However, the tricky thing with yawning is that the idea itself, the thought of yawning, makes you yawn. Even as I write this, I can’t help but yawn from time to time. And perhaps you might have just yawned yourself. Yawning still remains a mystery and one of the most curious things about us human beings.


Sources :

http://www.ehow.com/facts_5055048_yawn-someone-else-yawns.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6270036.stm
http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/behavior/question5721.htm

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