Long ago I did some research into why yawns are contagious. Recently I delved a bit deeper and had an epiphany.
There is a part of our brain that is used to analyze others actions and mimic them. However when we “catch” a yawn it bypasses this part. So if seeing someone yawn doesnt activate this then what is happening? Studies are showing the part of the brain affected is the part that deals with empathy. These regions, the precuneus and posterior temporal gyrus, are located in the back of the brain. Although the link between contagious yawning and empathy has been established, explanations for the link are still being investigated.
But studies are showing when someone yawns and then someone else does the same it is an unconscious way of showing empathy for that person. Scientists seem to have confirmed the link between yawning and empathy by studying its prevalence among normally developing children and children within the autism spectrum disorder. Children under the age of four and youngsters with autism do not suffer from infectious yawning because they do not experience the same levels of empathy, the report found.
The study showed the majority of children show no signs of succumbing to contagious yawning until they reach four years old. In a second study they looked at 28 children between the ages of six and 15 with some form of autism. Autism is a developmental disorder which affects children’s social interaction causing them to be unable to form normal emotional ties with people around them. Scientists discovered that autistic children were less likely than typically developing children of the same age to yawn when someone else yawns. The more severe a child’s autism the less likely he or she would yawn contagiously, the report published in the latest edition of the respected Child Development journal concluded. The researchers said: “Given that contagious yawning may be a sign of empathy, this study suggests that empathy and the mimicry that may underlie it develop slowly over the first few years of life, and that children with autism spectrum disorders may miss subtle cues that tie them emotionally to others.”
My epiphany occurred when I began to look at the people in my life. Some are caring, loving and wonderful people. Others not so much. One person never “catches” yawns. No matter how many, how loud or how dramatic the yawns are they do not yawn. This person is dishonest, sneaky, tends to put themselves first, lies on a regular basis and is all around a person you can’t trust or count on. Then the others who are caring, loving and put others first yawn almost as if on command. Maybe this is a tool we should begin utilizing more often. Maybe yawn a few times before you decide to commit to him/her. See what happens. Studies are showing it is a gauge of someones emotional closeness to the person yawning and a gauge of the empathy they feel for the person yawning. If I had applied this test many years ago I would have saved myself a lot of hurt. The ones that have hurt me in my life are strangely the ones who do not “catch” yawns.
Isn’t this what we all want to know? Does he/she really care, really love me, being honest etc… If you can discover this person has a lack of empathy and does not have an emotional closeness to you then those questions are answered.
It’s a hypothesis I developed around 3 am one morning… That being said I’m still standing by the brilliance of it! haha
Test it out..