September 04, 2017
It's happened to all of us: You're with a group of people and someone opens their mouth wide, squints their eyes and lets out a long sigh. All of a sudden, you're doing the exact same thing.
Yawning is famously contagious. Once you see someone else do it, it feels almost impossible not to do it yourself. But why?
A new study attempts to answer that question.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham have found that the urge to yawn when others do is tied to primitive reflexes in the brain's primary motor cortex, according to Science Daily.
The trigger is a common form of echophenomena, an automatic, involuntary need to imitate someone else's words or actions.
To conduct their study, the researchers had 36 adults watch videos of other people yawning, and were told either to resist yawning or allow themselves to yawn.
The volunteers were also given occasional transcranial magnetic stimulation to try and increase their urge to yawn.
The researchers found that our ability to not yawn when we see someone else do it is limited. On top of that, being told not to yawn makes us want to do it even more.
Trying to stifle a yawn will simply change the way we yawn, not stop ourselves from doing it. The propensity to yawn, however, is different for each individual.
Now that you're finished with this article, we have to ask: How many times have you yawned while you were reading?