I guess that this might be a little bit of an extension of the question "Is yawning contagious across species" that was earlier asked. But my question is, is yawning contagious at all? Is there any evidence that supports the idea that a person is statistically significantly more likely to yawn if in the vicinity of another person that is yawning?


3 Answers 3


Researchers tackle the mystery of yawning

Only about half of adult humans are prone to contagious yawning. In his tests, Dr. Gordon Gallup found that susceptibility to contagious yawning is linked to people’s success on a face recognition task. Those who are more susceptible score lower on a measure of schizotypal disorder, a personality disorder characterized by a need for social isolation.

Gallup’s later studies used functional MRI, or fMRI, to view subjects’ brains as they watch another person yawning. He found that this experience triggers “unique neural activity” in areas which play a role in self-processing, such as autobiographical memory. “Our findings provide further support for the hypothesis that contagious yawning may be part of a neural network involved in empathy.”

Dr. Catriona Morrison and a team of researchers from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom came to a similar conclusion:

Those who succumbed most to contagious yawning were the individuals who scored higher on the empathy test. Psychology students scored significantly higher on empathy and yawned more often than engineering students.

“We worked with psychologists because they are widely regarded to be more empathetic and engineers because they are often seen as ‘systemizers’, who are more interested in objects and functions than people,” said Dr Morrison. “We found the psychologists yawned contagiously more than the engineers."

  • Now that I think about it... seeing people yawn makes me feel weird... Commented May 20, 2011 at 2:47
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    Now that I think about it, I do dislike people. This explains why I picked engineering over psychology. I think this is an objective but functional view of yawning.
    – Kortuk
    Commented Jun 30, 2012 at 22:00

I would say one is more likely to yawn if looking at someone yawning, but statisticaly it is tricky to answer. You can measure how many times a person would yawn seeing somene yawn as well, but you can't know if that same person would not yawn at the same time if the situation was different and no one was yawning infront of their face, because yes and no can't exist at the same time.
There are studys about yawning to read, like one made with children, or an experiment report. In the second one they showed videos of people being neutral, laughing or yawning to people.

The incidence rate of evoked yawning in response to watching yawning videos was 41,5%, while the rate of evoked yawning in response to non-yawning videos was only 9%. Of those who showed contagious yawning 60% yawned more than once.

But the fact that studies are being made about this would logically lead to the conclusion that there is an exsisting phenomenon detected, therefore, yes, yawning is ''contagious''.


For a more ad-hoc 'study' the MythBusters TV show (in this episode) had an experiment their conclusion was that yawns are contagious. Their largest experiment involved a samples size of 50 people.

From the wikipedia summary:

In a second test pool of 50 people where only the influence of Kari's yawn was used, those who were influenced into yawning by her yawned 29% of the time. However, those who were not influenced yawned only 25% of the time. It seems that the MythBusters also found the average time to yawn for those who did yawn was 9 minutes for those who had been influenced and 9.6 minutes for those who had not. This was enough for the MythBusters to give the Confirmed rating, although there was the 4% difference between the experimental and control groups...

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