Have you noticed how contagious yawns are? Have you ever wondered just why are yawns contagious? If so, this post will attempt to satisfy your thirst of knowledge. While this isn’t exactly a huge mystery, it certainly is an intriguing fact, which many researchers have been trying to understand. And the answer is actually quite surprising, too!
But before we get into details, let’s do a little experiment. I want you you to scroll through this page and look at each one of these pictures, even if for a brief moment.
Remember, you have to look at each picture even if only for a split second. Just skimming through won’t do the trick.
If you don’t think yawns are contagious, look:
Well, did that make you yawn? If not, then you’re probably really refreshed and alert right now. Or else, you were probably not too focused on the pictures. In which case, you may want to try Emily’s yawning game, a similar experiment to this one I’ve just made. Having made this point, onward with the facts:
Possible reasons why yawning is contagious:
Coordination of social behavior: a long-standing theory to the whys and wherefores of yawning has establish this reflex is a genetically predisposition with that effects to coordinate sleeping patterns within certain animal groups, including our own primitive tribal ancestors.
Emphatic neural networking: some researchers have postulated that contagious yawning could be part of the “neural network involved in empathy.” In this line of thinking, a contagious yawn is regarded something that happens because we can relate with the other person’s own sleepiness.
Survival mechanism: According to this theory, the actual purpose of a yawn is to induce alertness when we’re getting sleepy; as such, the fact they spread so easily may actually be a survival mechanism; in ancient times when survival often depended on alertness, a yawn could be a wake-up call towards vigilance.
Fun and interesting facts about yawning:
Human fetuses begin yawning around the second trimester of development
Yawning in humans becomes contagious around age four
Autistic people are less prone to catch yawns
All vertebrates yawn, including reptiles
Only chimpanzees and dogs experience contagious yawning
The purpose of yawning is to help keep you awake
People with higher empathy are more susceptible to contagious yawning
Are you feeling drowsy already?
Maybe this wasn’t the most exciting slice of life one could have thought of. Maybe you have actually yawned several times while reading through this piece of writing. But at least now you probably have a better idea of why yawns are contagious: because they remind us that sooner or later it will be sleepy time!