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Why yawning is so contagious

You are more likely to yawn if a family member or friend yawns rather than if a stranger does, due to a phenomenon called ‘yawn contagion’, says a new study.

entertainment Updated: Dec 08, 2011 18:51 IST

You are more likely to yawn if a family member or friend yawns rather than if a stranger does, due to a phenomenon called ‘yawn contagion’, says a new study.

The phenomenon is widely known but little understood, and this new study, led by Ivan Norscia and Elisabetta Palagi of the University of Pisa in Italy, suggests that it occurs at least in part as a form of social empathy.

yawningThe researchers found that yawn contagion was highest in response to kin, then friends, then acquaintances, and finally strangers - the same pattern as is seen for other measures of empathy as well.

“For the first time, yawn contagion is affected by the empathic bond that links two people, by considering humans in their natural settings,” the researchers said.

The study was published in the online journal PLoS ONE.