ANSWERS: 39
  • Researchers Know that yawning is contagious in most primates. No one has devised a fully convincing explanation of why. the contagious power of yawning is largely unconscious. We can see someone yawn, yearn to replicate the action ourselves, and do it, all without thinking about it. Other times we’re aware it is happening, though it still floats somewhere beneath the realm of reason and of purposeful actions. Wherever it might affect the brain, it bypasses the known brain circuitry for consciously analyzing and mimicking other people’s actions. contagious yawning does not rely on brain mechanisms of action understanding, it seems to be an “‘automatically’ released (and most likely very archaic) sequence of physical actions. This might be part of a more general phenomenon of unconscious signals that serve to synchronize group behavior, the authors of a Neuroimage paper wrote. “Such synchronization could be essential for species survival and works without action understanding, like when a flock of birds rises to the air as soon as the first bird does so—supposably as it notices a predator.”
  • After doing a little resreach on this question I found out that no one person really knows why we yawn, but humans are the only ones that do this when some one else does it, as I was reading all the articles every one seemed to think it was caused by a differetn reason. I did however find one artcle which i have listed below, that seemed to list all of the reasons we yawn, Happy reading (O: More From The Press-Register | Subscribe To The Press-Register Health Question Why are yawns contagious? Sunday, March 7, 2004 By MONIQUE CURET Staff Reporter Cover your mouth if you want to, but it won't keep the next guy from "catching" your yawn. Contagious yawning is real, scientists say, and it's "probably programmed into us," according to Dr. William Broughton, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of South Alabama Knollwood Hospital. The action of a mouth opening is not what compels others to yawn, Broughton said. Studies have demonstrated that showing someone a photo of a wide-open mouth does not induce a yawn. Conversely, holding a hand over the mouth while yawning doesn't prevent it from being contagious, Broughton said. Contagious yawns appear "basically to be a visual response," Broughton said. Between 40 and 60 percent of people who watch videos or hear talk about yawning also end up doing the deed, according to Nature News Service. Researchers from the State University of New York in Albany tested people to find out why some are susceptible to contagious yawning and deduced that self-aware or empathetic people are more likely to catch yawns, according to the news service. "Identifying with another's state of mind while they yawn may trigger an unconscious impersonation....The findings also explain why schizophrenics, who have particular difficulty in doing this, rarely catch yawns," Nature News Service reported. Broughton said contagious yawning may be a social phenomenon, allowing groups of humans to coordinate their times of sleep. Ronald Baenninger, a professor in the psychology department at Temple University in Pennsylvania, has studied yawning and said that the contagiousness is the part we know the least about. One hypothesis is that the phenomenon came about when ancestral humans lived in troops, and it was important for them to wake up at the same time. Yawning may have been a way for them to communicate the level of alertness among different group members, Baenninger said. Today, contagious yawning is just the result of evolution, an instinctive action, Baenninger said. Though other creatures yawn - including dogs, cats and even snakes - contagious yawning is a "purely human occurrence," Broughton said. It begins around age 2. Baenninger and his students conducted a study to see if the contagion works between species. The students went to the zoo to observe whether humans would yawn when the animals did. A few people yawned in response to a lion's yawn, but the lion never replicated the humans' behavior, Baenninger said. There is some evidence that when one ape yawns, others will too, the professor said. Broughton said it's not clear what causes yawns. He defined yawning as "slow, involuntary gaping movements of the mouth," and said the word is derived from the Old English word ganien, which means "to gape." Spontaneous yawning begins in the embryonic stage, so it is not learned behavior, Broughton said. The idea of a fetus yawning while in the womb goes along with the notion of the action being a way to prepare for something, Baenninger said. Yawning appears to be associated with sleepiness, though the idea that it has to do with boredom is not necessarily true, Broughton said. It's an unconscious effort to keep your alertness level elevated, Baenninger said. "I'm a professor. All professors are used to having students yawn at them," Baenninger said. But the yawns are an attempt to stay awake, rather than an affront, he said. A few notions about why we yawn have been debunked: "Because breathing takes in oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, theories in the past about why we yawn centered on the assumption that it was a reflex in response to low oxygen or high carbon dioxide levels," writes Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, an associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. "This theory lost favor after a study in 1987, in which volunteers subjected to high oxygen levels did not yawn less, and after high carbon dioxide exposure did not yawn more," Shmerling said. In an article, he outlines several theories - none of which have been proven - about why we yawn: *To prevent airways in the lungs from collapsing by stretching the lungs and nearby tissues. "This could explain why yawning seems to occur around the time of shallow breathing (when tired, bored or just arising from bed)," Shmerling writes. *To distribute a chemical that coats the air pockets in the lungs and keeps them open. *To prepare for an increased level of alertness, especially just after a period of relaxation ("because yawning is associated with stretching of the muscles and joints and an increased heart rate"). *To signal nonverbally that it is time to relax. "Extensive yawning among members of a baboon group signals the time to sleep, typically with the leader ('alpha male') ending the ritual with a giant yawn. For humans, yawning could be a remnant of evolution that communicates the desire to be left alone (or) the need for rest." *To serve as a warning system that sleep may soon take over. Most people seem to enjoy yawning: They usually rate it highly on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of the pleasure it brings. But those who try to suppress a yawn - the effect of which is called a nasal yawn - rate it as less satisfying, Broughton said. Excessive yawning can be a sign of disease, such as multiple sclerosis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's disease; and Parkinson's disease. http://www.al.com/healthfit/mobileregister/index.ssf?/specialreport/mobileregister/healthwise/04_307yawns.html
  • Contagiousness The yawn reflex is often described as contagious: if one person yawns, this will cause another person to "sympathetically" yawn.[3] The reasons for this are unclear; however, recent research suggests that yawning might be a herd instinct.[4] Other theories suggest that the yawn serves to synchronize mood behavior among gregarious animals, similar to the howling of the wolf pack during a full moon. It signals tiredness to other members of the group in order to synchronize sleeping patterns and periods of activity. It can serve as a warning in displaying large, canine teeth. This phenomenon has been observed among various primates. The threat gesture is a way of maintaining order in the primates' social structure. The contagion of yawning is interspecific, for example a human yawning in front of a pet dog can incite the dog to yawn as well. Oddly, sometimes sympathetic yawning may be caused by simply looking at a picture of a person or animal yawning, or even seeing the word yawn. -wikipedia
  • Yawning is contagious because it is primative herd behavior. Herds of animals and pre-linguistic nomads needed a signal to indicate that it was time to stop wandering and to settle down for the night. As the more fatigued members of the group became tired, they would yawn, perhaps to flush CO2 from their systems, and other members of the group, if they were also tired, would reinforce this signals by yawning as well. If a sufficient amount of yawning occured, the group would stop and rest.
  • There seems to be an evolutionary purpose so I'm not sure I'd call it 'wierd' The proximate cause for contagious yawning may lie with mirror neurons, i.e. neurons in the frontal cortex of certain vertebrates, which upon being exposed to a stimulus from conspecific (same species) and occasionally interspecific organisms, activates the same regions in the brain[4]. Mirror neurons have been proposed as a driving force for imitation which lies at the root of much human learning, e.g. language acquisition. Yawning may be an offshoot of the same imitative impulse. At a distal level (in terms of evolutionary advantage), yawning might be a herd instinct.[5] Other theories suggest that the yawn serves to synchronize mood behavior among gregarious animals, similar to the howling of the wolf pack during a full moon. It signals tiredness to other members of the group in order to synchronize sleeping patterns and periods of activity. It can serve as a warning in displaying large, canine teeth. This phenomenon has been observed among various primates. The threat gesture is a way of maintaining order in the primates' social structure. The contagion of yawning is interspecific, for example a human yawning in front of a pet dog can incite the dog to yawn as well Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawning#Contagiousness
  • it isnt,it is just a myth.
  • Because the yawnee is taking oxygen out of the air.
  • Are they? Myth Busters showed that the yawn was not contagious but the bordom was....Causing people to yawn...
  • Yawns are very contagious (pyschologically). I am yawning whilst typing this. It,s just like when you think of biting into a lemon that your mouth starts watering.
  • I don't know the answer but wanted to say it is so funny, it always happens to my freinds and family, when someone starts to yawn we tell them not to because we know what's going to happen next!!! I have yawned once, when I read your question I laughed then yawned!! read first answer and my mouth started watering, never realised that one before!!! :) Whoops..just yawned again!!
  • Contagious yawning is real, scientists say, and it's "probably programmed into us," according to Dr. William Broughton, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of South Alabama Knollwood Hospital. The action of a mouth opening is not what compels others to yawn, Broughton said. Studies have demonstrated that showing someone a photo of a wide-open mouth does not induce a yawn. Conversely, holding a hand over the mouth while yawning doesn't prevent it from being contagious, Broughton said. Contagious yawns appear "basically to be a visual response," Broughton said. Researchers recently found that yawning isn’t only catching among people; it is also among chimpanzees. (Click here for a brief video from this research.) No one has devised a fully convincing explanation of why. Compounding the mystery is the odd way in which the contagious power of yawning is largely unconscious. We can see someone yawn, yearn to replicate the action ourselves, and do it, all without thinking about it. Other times we’re aware it is happening, though it still floats somewhere beneath the realm of reason and of purposeful actions. So what gives? In an effort to find the answer, the Finnish government recently funded a brain scanning study. The results turned up some hard-to-interpret, possible clues. It also confirmed the obvious: yawn contagion is largely unconscious. Wherever it might affect the brain, it bypasses the known brain circuitry for consciously analyzing and mimicking other people’s actions. This circuitry is called the “mirror-neuron system,” because it contains a special type of brain cells, or neurons, that become active both when their owner does something, and when he or she senses someone else doing the same thing.
  • You know, they haven't really found out yet. They just know that when you see others yawn, you are more likely to yawn yourself.
  • "The yawn reflex is often described as contagious: if one person yawns, this will cause another person to "sympathetically" yawn. Observing another person's yawning face (especially his/her eyes), or even reading about or thinking about yawning, can cause a person to yawn. However, only about 55% of people in a given audience will respond to such a stimulus; fewer if only the mouth is shown in a visual stimulus. The proximate cause for contagious yawning may lie with mirror neurons, i.e. neurons in the frontal cortex of certain vertebrates, which upon being exposed to a stimulus from conspecific (same species) and occasionally interspecific organisms, activates the same regions in the brain. Mirror neurons have been proposed as a driving force for imitation which lies at the root of much human learning, e.g. language acquisition. Yawning may be an offshoot of the same imitative impulse. A 2007 study found that children with autism spectrum disorders, unlike typical children, did not yawn after seeing videos of other people yawning; this supports the claim that contagious yawning is based on the capacity for empathy. To look at the issue in terms of evolutionary advantage, if there is one at all, yawning might be a herd instinct. Other theories suggest that the yawn serves to synchronize mood behavior among gregarious animals, similar to the howling of the wolf pack. It signals tiredness to other members of the group in order to synchronize sleeping patterns and periods of activity. This phenomenon has been observed among various primates. The threat gesture is a way of maintaining order in the primates' social structure. Specific studies were conducted on chimpanzees and stumptail macaques. A group of these animals was shown a video of other conspecifics yawning, and both chimpanzees and stumptail macaques yawned also. This helps to partly confirm a yawn's "contagiousness". Gordon Gallup, who hypothesizes that yawning may be a means of keeping the brain cool, also hypothesizes that "contagious" yawning may be a survival instinct inherited from our evolutionary past. "During human evolutionary history when we were subject to predation and attacks by other groups, if everybody yawns in response to seeing someone yawn, the whole group becomes much more vigilant, and much better at being able to detect danger."" Source and further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawn#Contagiousness
  • All this... talk of yawning... *yawn*!
  • I was told that the atmosphere is idea for humans, and that is why we yawn together!
  • Pass but I do know the moment I read the question I yawned.
  • Only about 55% of people will respond.The cause may lie with mirror neurons, i.e., neurons in the frontal cortex, which activates the brain in a mirror, or copy, action.
  • No one knows. It is just the most contagious thing of all. :-)
  • Don't know. Here's a trick: On the blackboard or white board in a room full of people, write the word "YAWN". Within about a minute, half the room will be yawning.
  • Yawning is contagious it is a known fact.
  • Such a good question. I tested to see if it was a natural reaction. When ever I yawn I try to make sure my baby sees it. She has yet to yawn when I yawn. It must be a learned thing.
  • From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6270036.stm Yawning is an involuntary action that everyone does. We start before we are born and most creatures on the planet do it - even snakes and fish. New research suggests rather than being a precursor to sleep, the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain so it operates more efficiently and keeps you awake. The theory could explain a puzzling question about subconscious human behaviour - why many of us yawn when we see or hear another person doing it, or even read about it or even just think about it? The brain cooling theory says that when we contagiously yawn we are participating in an ancient, hardwired ritual that evolved to help groups stay alert and detect danger. There are other theories. It's been suggested contagious yawning could be a result of an unconscious herding behaviour - a subtle way to communicate to those around us, similar to when flocks of birds take flight at the same time. Another theory suggests contagious yawning might have helped early humans communicate their alertness levels and co-ordinate sleeping times.
  • The yawn reflex is often described as contagious: if one person yawns, this will cause another person to "sympathetically" yawn. Observing another person's yawning face (especially his/her eyes), or even reading about or thinking about yawning, can cause a person to yawn. Mirror neurons have been proposed as a driving force for imitation, which lies at the root of much human learning, e.g., language acquisition. Yawning may be an offshoot of the same imitative impulse. A 2007 study found that children with autism spectrum disorder do not increase their yawning frequency after seeing videos of other people yawning, in contrast to typically developing children. This supports the claim that contagious yawning is based on the capacity for empathy. To look at the issue in terms of evolutionary advantage, if there is one at all, yawning might be a herd instinct. Other theories suggest that the yawn serves to synchronize mood in gregarious animals, similar to the howling of the wolf pack. It signals tiredness to other members of the group in order to synchronize sleeping patterns and periods of rest. This phenomenon has been observed among various primates. The threat gesture is a way of maintaining order in the primates' social structure. Specific studies were conducted on chimpanzees and stumptail macaques A group of these animals was shown a video of other conspecifics yawning; both species yawned as well. This helps to partly confirm a yawn's "contagiousness." Gordon Gallup, who hypothesizes that yawning may be a means of keeping the brain cool, also hypothesizes that "contagious" yawning may be a survival instinct inherited from our evolutionary past. "During human evolutionary history when we were subject to predation and attacks by other groups, if everybody yawns in response to seeing someone yawn, the whole group becomes much more vigilant, and much better at being able to detect danger." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawning#Contagiousness
  • Im not sure hads but i want to downrate you cause now i cant stop yawning!! hahaha
  • And it may have the biological imperative once upon a cave dwelling time, to inadvertantly alert others of potential lack of oxygen in their environ. And no, I'm sure I'm *not* confusing this with the 'Canary in the Coalmine' scenario :)
  • Contagious as smallpox!
  • Yes, just like all the research shows.
  • Did you know that if you are close to someone in mid yawn. Touch their tongue very quickly with the tip of your finger, and they stop dead! Please don't ask how I know this lol
  • Its the same as if you are close to someone in mid yawn. Touch their tongue very quickly with the tip of your finger, and they stop dead! Please don't ask how I know this!
  • Its the same as if you are close to someone in mid yawn. Touch their tongue very quickly with the tip of your finger, and they stop dead! Please don't ask how I know this!
  • I read once that it is related to empathy. If I recall correctly, the research had showed some 20 engineers a video clip of a yawning person, and then done the same thing with 20 psychologist, with very different results
  • yes i even yawn when my cat yawns
  • No one knows. Many studies have been done, but no one has been able to give a definitive answer.
  • Mythbusters proved that is not true.
  • I yawned after reading this question. Contrary to popular belief, yawning does not directly mean that you are tired - just that your body isn't getting enough air. (It is indirectly linked to tiredness because when you are sleeping your breathing progressively shortens until it gets to a point where you stop very briefly and then it progressively lengthens. As your body nears the sleeping process it begins this breathing pattern, but by being awake your body still needs copious amounts of oxygen to stay energized - hence yawning.) Most people, I believe, generally don't breathe in as much as they should - either because they are talking all the time, concentrating incredibly hard on something (like answering an AB question), or are otherwise distracted. However, once they see someone yawning or see anything (like the word itself) that reminds them of a way to bring in more oxygen that is being denied to the body, the body immediately jumps on board and yawns.
  • the last thing i heard about it was about the oxygen to the brain. we yawn to wake our selves up, make us more alert this is why we yawn when we are tired... so the thought about yawning being contagious is that if there is lack of oxygen aroudn you then the people around you are going to yawn also! another look at yawning is about the body temperature. we yawn to regulate our body temperature. so if the temperature is not right for you when you yawn, it is probably not right for the poeple aroudn you also? who knows how much of this is true or not
  • it is the monkey see monkey do principle - try an expirment the next time your talking face to face with someone, keep reaching up and touching your left shoulder after about the third time you will see that the person you are talking to will also reach up and touch their left shoulder - you can touch your ear, nose, hair but it doesn't matter they will copy your action, yawning is just simpler to imitate and that is why it is considered contagious. thaks+4.
  • Classical conditioning. We usually yawn when we're tired, and we associate the sound with tiredness. So when we hear it it makes us tired.
  • Not always!

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