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What Makes Yawning Contagious?

How long will it take for you to yawn whilst reading this blog? Fingers crossed you’ll make it to the end, but yawning is one of those strange things that, for some reason, when we see or hear someone do it, we can’t help but yawn ourselves.

There’s something that’s so contagious about yawning, but what goes on in our brains that make us yawn?

Yawning is something that we can’t control; it is an involuntary reflex that is our brain’s way of telling us that our body craves more oxygen. When we feel tired, our breathing naturally slows down, which means that our bodies take in less oxygen, causing us to yawn.

So, where does contagious yawning come in?

If you’ve ever been around someone and they’ve yawned, it’s likely that you’ve yawned soon after. Some people believe that yawning is contagious because of neurological stimulation, but others believe it is simply down to being empathetic.

Our empathetic traits and contagious yawning first start when we are around five years old, which is when we are said to develop the ability to read emotions.

Contagious yawning is caused by mirror neurons that are said to stimulate the brain into copying something that we already see, so if someone is close to us and they yawn, our first instinct is to yawn too.

Other interesting theories suggest that contagious yawning is a result of unconscious behaviour called ‘herding’. It is considered an involuntary way of us communicating with each other, like a flock of birds do when they take flight at the same time.

Now you know what makes yawning contagious, how long did it take you to yawn whilst reading this blog? Let us know in the comment section below. And if you made it here without yawning, well done!

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