Why is yawning contagious

Ever been in a room with someone who can’t stop yawning? Well, the chances are that you also started to feel the urge to yawn as well. A yawn is such an ancient and automatic thing, and something we often do when we are tired. But, not only is it something we regularly do, it is also something that is incredibly contagious as well. In fact, yawning is one of the earliest forms of evolution, and even animals like fish are known to do it!

Yawning is something that is so ingrained in the way the brain works, that we don’t even realize we’re doing it a lot of the time. There are so many things that are reflexive and autonomic, and we regularly do them without thinking. In fact, there are so many different things that can cause us to yawn, including boredom and tiredness, but there are other factors too. Yawning has been scientifically proven to be contagious, but how, and why?


Copycat yawning is a common thing in the animal kingdom and something that not just humans do. This behavior has been observed in apes, wolves, baboons, and dogs as well, and this shows that it is a definite subconscious thing. Yawning feels good and gives a feeling of satisfaction, and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. However, in recent times, scientists have challenged the idea of contagious yawns, and some have speculated that there are other reasons behind why we yawn.

Not everyone is affected

Indeed, not everybody is actually affected by yawns, and this is interesting. Studies have noted that people who display signs of autism and schizophrenia do not seem to show this contagious approach to yawning, and neither do children under the age of four. Quite why this is the case is unclear, but it seems that it could link to the mirror-neuron system in the brain. Those without the capacity to be empathetic miss the cues that can lead to contagious yawning.

Active yawning

The urge to yawn can come in all different shapes and sizes, and one of the key ones is before sporting activity. Many people yawn as a sign of being nervous, while others yawn to prepare ourselves for the task ahead. This helps to stimulate the amygdala part of the brain and helps to prepare brain and body for trials and tribulations. But it could be simpler than that – laughing is contagious, and a great way of helping groups to bond, and yawning could work in a similar fashion.

Fake yawning

While involuntary yawning plays a big role in the way our subconscious works, there is another type of yawning, and that is fake yawning. While this is not contagious, it is often used ironically as a way of signaling to someone that you are bored or find a particular scenario dull. But, the next time you’re in a meeting, we urge you to try to yawn and see what happens!

Yawning actually feels really good and gives the body something of a release. There are many reasons why yawning could be contagious, but the common theory is that it is more of a subconscious thing. While some people dispute this, it’s clear that yawning is something that seems to be at least socially contagious.

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