Next time you catch yourself yawning, look around: Did anyone close to you let out his or her own sleepy “ahhh”? Turns out, close friends and family are more likely than acquaintances or strangers to catch someone’s yawns, a new study finds.
The researchers suggest this yawning contagion is, in part, the result of empathy, in which we can attempt to see things from another person’s angle and respond to that person’s emotions.
“I think what the study does is it supports the idea that empathy is the mechanism that underlies contagious yawns,” said Matthew Campbell of Emory University, who wasn’t involved in the study. “The idea is that it’s the same mechanism by which we catch smiles or frowns or fearful expressions.”