Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Jason Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal has a post up about a pretty fun paper on the subject of contagious yawning. We're all familiar with the phenomenon: you see me yawn, then you yawn, etc. This paper documents contagious yawning between humans and dogs. That's right, zoonotic yawning!
The yawning condition made the dogs yawn for 21 out of 29 individuals, and none of the dogs yawned in the control condition. Further, no yawns were observed in the interval between the two conditions (there was a five minute break between each of the five-minute-long conditions). During the yawning condition, dogs yawned an average of 1.9 times, and there were no sex or age differences, and there was no effect of the order in which the conditions were presented.
One of the hypotheses for contagious yawning is empathy
it actually turns out that there is a correlation between the susceptibility for contagious yawning and self-reported empathy. Converging evidence for the empathy hypothesis comes from the fact that contagious yawning is absent in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Does this mean dogs have empathy towards humans, or is it just a response to mild tension (eg. to seeing teeth baring)? Can humans catch a dog yawn?


rob said...

the yawn test for psychopaths?

Anonymous said...

Hah! I yawned immediately when I started to read this post :).

WV: propins