The scientists are still interested in the phenomenon of “contagious” yawning. The recent studies suggest that transmitted yawning is a form of social empathy, and it helps people interact with each other.
This version is proved by the fact that children display the ability of “contagious yawning” from the age of 4-5 years. It happens simultaneously with the development of the skill to interpret other people’s emotions. However, it has been unclear what determines whether a yawn can be passed over to other people.
The researchers from the University of Pisa have analyzed 480 episodes of yawning involving 109 volunteers, who live in different corners of the globe – in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe.
The results confirmed the existing theory.
The reaction of people to yawning really reflects the relationships that exist between different groups of people. The most “contagious” yawns were among family members. They caused a desire to yawn among the half of the volunteers. This category was followed by friends. Their yawning was responded by about a quarter of the volunteers. Yawning acquaintances caused a corresponding desire of only one in eight people, and strangers influenced only one in ten. The results also showed that it took more time for yawning to be transmitted to strangers, than to the people, who know each other well.