Picture it: you’re sitting in a 2:00 PM meeting, feeling extremely under-caffeinated, and you notice your co-worker across from you yawning, and before you know it the entire conference room is taking part in a chorus of yawns. What kind of mind-trick is this, you ask? Well, science has an answer! Let’s dig in.
First, we have to understand why we yawn; a lot of us have probably been told a yawn occurs because we’re lacking oxygen and it’s our body’s way of getting oxygen to our brains. And for the last 30 or so years, that’s what scientists believed. However, it’s now highly theorized that yawns happen as kind of an attempt to wake us up; so as we become tired, we start to yawn more and more. Now, a lot of scientists will say that yawning is an unexplained phenomenon, but other popular theories are that yawns are brain temperature regulators, and when we yawn it’s our body’s way of cooling our brain down; or that yawning keeps our lung tissue lubricated.
(image via: psy post)
Now that we kinda sorta have an idea why we yawn, though technically scientists don’t even know, so we’re at least caught up with their theories, let’s talk about that urge to yawn the very second we see someone else do so. And while we would love to answer this question, we can’t. Because much like yawning itself, scientists haven’t really figured out exactly why yawning is contagious, but a ton of research has been done on the topic, so we can at least present you with a couple of theories. Let’s take a look at them!
An extremely popular theory states that we mimic others’ yawning because of empathy; a phenomenon in fact known as ‘echophenemona’, which is really just a long word for being a copycat. But research also tells us that our brains are simply wired to copy those around us, hence all the yawning. But now all brains are wired the same, in fact, those who have been diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia often don’t mimic yawning because their brains aren’t wired to display this “monkey see, monkey do” behavior.
Another popular theory came from a study conducted on mice; in animals, it’s common for one animal to see another animal yawning and think,”I should do that too!” and then they just do it and that’s that.
(Image via: i heart dogs)