The Phenomenon of Yawning
We yawn countless times during our lifetime. This is an involuntary action which can be best described as a process of opening our mouth wide for about 5 seconds, violently inhaling air due to boredom, fatigue or lack of oxygen.
This phenomenon is present in all people, even infants while still being in the womb. Also, most animals yawn as well. However, the most interesting claim about yawning is that it is contagious.
I Yawn – You Yawn
Numerous researches have been carried out on the subject of yawning being contagious. Most of them have proven valuable points. For example, we know that most people will yawn when they see other people performing the same action. Moreover, they will yawn if they read about yawning, hear the sound of yawing over the phone or think about this action. Therefore blind and deaf people yawn as well. Animals yawn after seeing a member of their species yawn.
However, babies and infants do not respond to these stimuli, making this subject even more peculiar. Additionally, people with autism or schizophrenia seem to be immune to other people yawning. This caused a lot of interest within the scientific circles and various researches were directed towards finding out why and how is yawning contagious, or whether it is contagious at all.
Is Yawning Contagious?
Firstly, yawning may be contagious if the group of people affected by it are located under the same conditions. For example, being together in a place lacking oxygen, many people may yawn at once, since their bodies react the same to this situation.
There are other, more interesting claims, however. Namely, some scientist say that yawning in groups dates back to our primitive age, where we, affected by instincts, used our teeth and opened our mouth to show other people that we are more dangerous than they are, intimidating them. Also, this could have been a signal for sleeping time in tribes or other groups of people, becoming an instinct later. Furthermore, people who were yawning often were thought to be less capable of defending themselves and were, therefore, protected.
Finally, there are claims that there are special centers in our brain which read other people's faces and react to the stimuli received from this source. Subsequently, seeing someone yawn, your brain, subconsciously, imitates the process for some reason.
All in all, we yawn when we see other people do the same. The question why this is so, remains a mystery yet to be solved.