Science Overview: Contagious Yawning: Evidence of Empathy?

When is a yawn just a yawn? When is a yawn more than a yawn? Contagious yawning – the increase in likelihood that you will yawn after watching or hearing someone else yawn – has been of particular interest to researchers in fields as varied as primatology, developmental psychology, and psychopathology.


At first, scientists thought that yawning was a mechanism designed to keep the brain cool. However, it turns out that there is a correlation between the susceptibility for contagious yawning and self-reported empathy.


By Jason G. Goldman