Have you ever wondered why seeing someone yawn instantly stimulates you to open your mouth in the same way? While scientists have understood the physiological purpose behind yawning, why it is so contagious among social animals still confuses them. According to Andrew Gallup, an evolutionary biologist from the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and an author of the paper, yawning may be a way for groups of animals to synchronize with each other and coordinate behaviors. of the group.
A person often yawns when transitioning from one active state to another, be it waking up from a deep sleep or going to bed after a tiring day. Yawning has long been thought to be a means of exhaling carbon dioxide and replenishing oxygen. Now, however, it seems that yawning has to do more with regulating blood temperature to cool the brain. Research, published in the journal Animal Behavior, sheds more light on contagious yawns.
When it comes to consecutive yawning that can spread between individuals, Gallup explains that the behavior may have evolved to increase vigilance within a group. The idea is that if yawning indicates a person is feeling sleepy, seeing him yawn can alert other members of the group. This compensates for the low vigilance of the yawner and thus increases the overall vigilance of the group.
To shed light on this idea, Gallup did a study last year. He showed people several pictures that included threatening stimuli such as pictures of snakes and non-threatening stimuli such as pictures of frogs. People were first shown a video of yawning and then pictures were shown to them. Gallup then tested their ability to pick out images from arrays of images.
He observed that after observing people yawn, one could more effectively detect threatening stimuli or images of snakes. However, the ability of humans to spot the photo of the frog remains unchanged, Science magazine reported.