Are you feeling sleepy? Dreaming of a pleasant deep sleep to recharge your batteries. If you think about sleep for too long, you may find yourself yawning.
Why do people yawn? Nobody really knows the answer! Although scientists have many ideas, there is no single explanation yet.
However, there’s something experts know about yawning: it seems to be contagious! Have you ever caught a yawn from someone else? In fact, a person is six times more likely to yawn after seeing someone else do it.
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Why is yawning contagious? This is another mystery that experts are still working on solving. They have done a lot of research on why yawning is transmitted from person to person. As a result, experts have several theories to explain this.
One possible explanation has to do with so-called social mirroring. It is caused by mirror neurons in the brain. These cells help the brain to notice the helpful behavior of others and then imitate it. When one person sees another yawn, their mirror neurons observe this action and interpret it as beneficial. It can also make them yawn.
Another popular theory is that yawning is contagious through social bonding. In fact, many experts believe they can be a sign of empathy. Humans are, of course, social creatures. They form friendships, families and live together in groups. This is why many people copy others, such as smiling when the other person does. Yawning can be another example of this. In fact, research has shown that people are more likely to catch a yawn from another person if they have shared social connections.
The answer may even be that yawning is not contagious at all. Instead, people may yawn when they are together simply because they are in the same environment. Experts say many factors can cause yawning, including temperature and time of day. Possible triggers can occur for anyone in the same general area. For this reason, people who yawn after each other may just do so by coincidence.
Whatever the explanation, experts know that contagious yawning isn’t limited to humans. One study examined two lion prides in South Africa. It turned out that these animals also caught each other’s yawns. In fact, a lion was 139 times more likely to yawn after seeing another member of the pride doing so.
Scientists have observed similar behavior in other mammals. Primates, wolves, and even domestic dogs also experience contagious yawning. In some cases, this can even work between species. For example, domestic dogs are more likely to yawn when they see their owner doing it.
Think about the last time you yawned. Was it after your interlocutor yawned? Or did you start yawning and pass it on to others? In any case, yawning often becomes a group activity!