Why do we yawn when we see other people yawn? Is it true that yawning is “contagious”? Let us find out more about this reflex. Yawning is actually a reflex of air inhalation and eardrum stretching. These two processes go simultaneously. We usually associate yawning with sleep, tiredness, and sometimes – boredom. Yawning can have several meanings, but it all depends on the situation you are in. We believe that human yawning is a bit “contagious”. However, chimpanzees are also believed to yawn “contagiously”.
Why Do We Yawn?
♦ Indeed, what is the explanation for yawning? There are many different explanations, actually.
♦ This reflex was studied back in 1508, when Erasmus defined yawning as quite contagious. He wrote that a man yawns when he sees another man yawning.
♦ This phenomenon has something to do with our natural human “sympathy”. We are naturally sympathetic to one another, so this may be one possible explanation for contagious yawning.
♦ There was a study in 2007 that confirmed that autistic children do not yawn when they see people around them yawning. This was the proof that yawning has to do with human sympathetic qualities.
♦ Animal yawning has different meaning than yawning seen in humans. Animals use this gesture as a threat to other animals and that is the way for them to keep their position among other animals.
♦ However, chimpanzees do not yawn just to warn other animals. They have been studied and the results have shown that yawning is contagious among chimpanzees, just as it is in humans.
♦ The theory of “boredom” seems to be incorrect. We do not yawn when we are bored – according to many researches.
♦ Yawning is “contagious”. We start yawning when we see other people yawning. There are suggestions that this happens due to our natural empathy. Our brain has its “empathy mechanisms”. When we see something happening to others, sometimes we can feel exactly the same – as it is happening to us. This is one of the major arguments why yawning is contagious among human beings.
♦ There were also some suggestions that we yawn because we need more oxygen. We are still waiting for this theory to be officially accepted. However, this could make sense.
♦ You can stop accusing people for yawning in the middle of conversation. They are not bored – do not worry. We yawn for many reasons, but boredom is not one of them, as you can see.