When you're with someone and you see them yawn, it seems as if it is nearly impossible not to yawn yourself. A recent study found there is finally an answer to why his happens, and why you may be a psychopath if it doesn't.
The study suggest that contagious yawning is closely linked to empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and connect with others' emotional states. It sounds strange, but whether or not you have contagious yawns may actually be related to how much empathy you feel for others. For starters, babies don't catch yawns. Yawn contagion only starts to appear around the age of four or five, about the same time as empathy.
So why does empathy have to do with contagious yawning? A group of psychologists at Leeds University in England did a study to prove this theory. In their study, researchers selected 40 psychology students and 40 engineering students.
Each student was made to wait individually in a waiting room, along with an undercover assistant who yawned 10 times while there. The students were then given an emotional test. Students were shown 40 images of eyes and asked what emotion each one displayed.
The results of the test support the theory that contagious yawning is linked to empathy. The psychology students, whose future profession requires them to focus on others and give empathy, yawned contagiously an average of 5.5 times in the waiting room and scored 28 out of 40 on the emotional test.
The rest of the tests proved this theory.
The engineering students, who tend to focus on things like numbers and not people, yawned an average of 1.5 times and scored 25.5 out of 40 on the following test. The difference doesn't sound like much, but researchers consider it significant.
Neurologists supported this study when they found that contagious yawning is associated with the same parts of the brain that deal with empathy, as they discovered through brain scans.
So why would not yawning make you a psychopath? Okay, well it's really not that simple, but it is true that psychopaths wouldn't have contagious yawns. Because we now know that empathy causes contagious yawns, we can assume that psychopaths would never have them because they don't experience empathy the same way we do.
So no, if you don't yawn it doesn't mean you are for sure a psychopath, but it could be a possibility. On the brighter side of things, if you always have contagious yawns, it means you are an extremely empathetic person!