Caught My Yawn? Aren't You Sweet

Study discovers contagious yawning is sign of empathy
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2007 3:19 AM CDT
England's Manchester United head coach Alex Ferguson yawns.   (Getty Images (by Event))
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(Newser) – If you yawn when someone nearby does, it may mean you're an empathetic person, a new study has found. Research shows that infectious yawning is a psychological phenomenon, limited to humans and some of their ape relatives, and that those more likely to "catch" yawns appear to be more tuned in to the emotions of others.

Scientists stuck volunteers in a waiting room while an undercover researcher yawned. Then participants were asked to record emotions expressed in pictures of people's eyes. Those who scored highest on the empathy test were also the most susceptible to contagious yawning. Neurological maging has shown that the same area of the brain is involved when someone reacts to a yawn and when considering others.