Have you ever wondered why, when you see someone else yawn, you find yourself yawning as well? Is there a scientific reasoning for this sudden copycat reaction?
Simply put—they are not sure. Although there are currently no scientific statistics to back up or even explain why yawning is so contagious, there are a few viable research theories that may hold some insight into the phenomenon.
One theory currently out there suggests that such we are such a compassionate society, that our “catching” the reflex to yawn is more of an empathic response. The truth is, there is a lot of research both done and being done that links yawning to empathy.
The University of Connecticut released the results from a study, that showed that most children are immune to “catching” yawning until they are around the age of four—the same age they develop and begin to exhibit empathy for others.
However, in the very same study, involving those children with autism, the participants did not “catch” yawning as their counterparts did. It was believed that this was because autistic individuals struggle on a daily basis to process emotions and even empathy.
Another very popular theory is that yawning services as a means to control internal body temperature, much in the same manner as a radiator. This theory was witnessed by researchers at Binghamton University while studying parrots. They noted that as the temperature in the room turned warmer, the birds would begin to yawn more often.
Now, you may be asking yourself how the regulation of body temperature theory plays into why we yawn when we see others do so. Researchers hypothesize that when we see someone else yawn, that tips us off to start yawning in order to keep our brains cooler.
In the end, most researchers agreed that yawning is not so much a contagious type of mannerism, but more of a copycat or mimicked one. They also believe that it is all linked in some manner to survival and empathy.