Why Is Yawning Contagious?

What's interesting about yawning phenomenon is that it seems to be 'contagious' or 'catch able'. If we see someone yawning, we also start to yawn and it goes even further that for some people reading this word 'yawn' can bring yawning response. Although for many years, this 'contagious' nature of yawn has remained mystery but recent scientific research seems to bring new light.

Research has found that almost 60% of healthy humans suffer from 'contagious yawning' phenomenon and people who may not show contagious yawning may be indicative of "Autism spectrum disorder" (widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior). The ability to yawn when seeing other people yawning can be explained in people who are empathetic; who start to imagine themselves in the shoes of other people. This behavior also exists in other primates especially in apes.

More interestingly in human brain the ventromedial prefrontal cortex was activated in individuals with contagious yawning. So please be aware that next time in presentations, do not yawn in front of the speaker as the speaker may be an empathetic person.


Written by Dr.Muhammad Wasif Haq, Karachi, Pakistan.



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