What happens when we see a person yawning? We automatically yawn within a few seconds. In other words, we can say that yawning is contagious. Have you ever wondered why does this happens and what could probably be the reason behind this strange phenomenon? This blog is all about this contagious practice.
Yawning is a process of opening the mouth wide and then breathing heavily so that the lungs are filled with air. This kind of process is said to be involuntary meaning that we cannot control the process. This is the reason for which the yawns are so random and also last for different times. Even animals like lions, cows, tigers and dogs,s, etc yawn.
This process is mostly a response to tiredness. Some other processes like the watering of eyes, stretching, and some sighing sounds accompany yawns to indicate tiredness. The other main cause for yawning is boredom. We tend to yawn when we feel bored and uninterested. An apt reason for yawning in classes!!
Yawning is mostly a natural phenomenon and this can indicate some disease/disorder but that is very rare. Yawning for a long time period and with repeatability over some days can indicate danger. This repeated yawning is triggered by a vasovagal attack. This refers to the increase in the activity of the vagus nerve.
This is known as palpitation and is triggered by some stimuli like fear, stress, anxiety, etc. The increased activity can reduce the blood pressure and the heart rate which can lead to more complications.
There is not much to worry about since most of these are seen rarely. The most probable reasons for yawning include tiredness, boredom, and inadequate sleep. Having a better and deep sleep can overcome the problems mentioned above.
As said earlier, yawning is contagious. Seeing and hearing other people yawning and even thinking about yawning can trigger yawns within us. There are cases where people have yawned just by seeing movies/videos of people yawning. There is something behind this phenomenon and the reason for this from the neurological aspect is empathy and observational learning.
Empathy is a type of emotion in which we can feel for others. This emotion is quite relatable with the phrase “to be in other’s shoes”. There is this strange connection between empathy and yawning.
A research was conducted in 2018 regarding facial mimicry. It is well established that humans tend to mimic others and the research was to prove this for facial expressions. The volunteers were made to watch muted videos of people laughing, crying, yawning, etc. and their empathy was measured mathematically.
It was observed that out of all activities, the empathy for yawning was high. So they came to the conclusion that there was a positive relation between yawn and empathy. The more you have empathy, the more likely you are to yawn just by seeing others.
The second aspect is observational learning. This is a phenomenon in which animals learn by observing others doing it. This is most obvious in babies. They repeat whatever they observe surrounding them. Yawning can also be observational and in fact, it is one of the things we learn after birth. But this is not a strong reason for yawning as like empathy.
So finally we can say that empathy is the main reason for contagious yawning. So the next time when you yawn after seeing someone yawn, you have more empathy for them and you understand them better than others.