ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Is Yawning Contagious?

Updated on September 17, 2012

According to research performed at New York State University, between 40 and 60 percent of the population seems to find yawning contagious.

Researchers from the State University of New York in Albany tested people to find out why some are susceptible to contagious yawning and deduced that self-aware or empathetic people are more likely to catch yawns.

Also, Ronald Baenninger, a professor in the psychology department at Temple University in Pennsylvania, has conducted a study to see if the contagion works between species. He and his students went to the zoo to observe whether humans would yawn when the animals did. A few people yawned in response to a lion's yawn, but the lion never replicated the humans' behavior, Baenninger said. There is some evidence that when one ape yawns, others will too.

Dr. William Broughton, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of South Alabama Knollwood Hospital, said the action of a mouth opening is not what compels others to yawn, Broughton said. Studies have demonstrated that showing someone a photo of a wide-open mouth does not induce a yawn. Also, holding a hand over the mouth while yawning doesn't prevent it from being contagious, Broughton said.

A scientific look at the issue is this: The Finnish government recently funded a brain scanning study that shows yawn contagion is largely unconscious. Wherever it might affect the brain, it does not affect the known brain circuitry for consciously analyzing and mimicking other people's actions; this circuitry is called the "mirror-neuron system."

The researchers found that yawning seems to activate at least one brain area, which is called the superior temporal sulcus. Even more relevant was the apparent deactivation of another brain area, the left periamygdalar region. The more strongly a participant reported wanting to yawn in response to another person's yawn, the stronger was this deactivation.

Studies on physical brain activity related to yawn contagious seems to be inconclusive.

Some scientists believe yawning came to be a method to communicate levels of alertness to each other and coordinate sleeping times.

It's also been suggested contagious yawning could be a result of an unconscious herding behaviour, a way to communicate to those around us, similar to when flocks of birds take flight at the same time.

Mythbusters - Is Yawning Contagious?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and thank you for sharing.Here's to so many more for us both to share on here.

      Take Care and enjoy your day.


    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone! Laila, I did the same thing!

    • LailaK profile image


      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Believe it or not, I started yawning just from seeing the picture in the hub! Hehe...anyhow, this is very interesting; very valuable info about empathetic people being more likely to yawn! Thanks for sharing!

    • debbiesdailyviews profile image


      8 years ago

      That was really interesting. I love yawning. It's comforting, and cosy.

      I know that there is on the market a book of photo's of lot's of children yawning.. it's marketed for bedtime stories to get the children sleepy.

      I thought that was a great idea.

      I think the Author came from a sleepy town, but woke up rich over night. And good on that writer, or would that be photographer, which ever. brilliant mind.

      Another great Hub.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments and for stopping by!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Yawning is undisputably contagios, I have never seen any even vaguely convincing arguments explaining why, I do however have my own theory( not based on any research as such but follows accordingly.)

      What is yawning? people have tried to explain it's immediate effects etc. but I think people should also think about what Yawning is most comparaable to, my answer is ........Vomiting. The action a person makes when yawning is immensly like that of a person vomiting, essentialy wretching, (yawn too much repeatadly and you will even feel slightly sick.) Now suppose it's a feature of our brains means we vomit when other things around us are seen to vomit, this is a useful behavioral feature because animals living in groups might well share the same immediate food source (same deer or meat etc.) If the meat is tainted and one of them detects this and vomits, it might be beneficial to the others if they vomit and not risk any contamination themselves.

      This is just my own theory, I don't neccesarily believe it, it's just an Idea I had that made some sense and appeared to be better than many possible solutions

    • weblog profile image


      8 years ago from 1India

      I've always wondered about it. Thanks for the great hub.

      Thumbs up!

    • Which4u profile image


      8 years ago from Leicester, UK

      This headline genuinely made me yawn!

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 

      8 years ago from Oregon


      Also loved your concise writing style and well-researched stats.

    • luxSmee profile image


      9 years ago

      My doctor informed that yawning is contagious. It appears to be an accepted medical fact.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I love that picture! I've joined your fan club.

    • SunSeven profile image


      11 years ago from Singapore / India

      Very interesting indeed. Thank you glassvisage for answering my request. Best Regards.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      11 years ago from Seattle

      Interesting information. I had also heard that the "contagious" part of yawning comes from empathy. Whenever I "catch" someone else's yawns, I think about how empathetic I am. Ha.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)