Why does a person yawn, if he sees another person yawn even if the person was on tv?

Don’t know, but while you’re asking, I’d like to know what the purpose is in yawning at all. I’ve heard it’s the body’s way of infusing oxygen into your system when it doesn’t feel you are getting quite enough, but it seems kind of exhale-oriented to me.

“We are here for this – to make mistakes and to correct ourselves, to withstand the blows and to hand them out.” Primo Levi

Why are yawns contagious?

is on April 15th. Do you have what it takes?

My kid just aced her science project on this subject. She tested 100 people and got an 85% positive contagious yawn response.

For some reason it works on cats almost always without fail. Dogs don’t seem to react to it as much though.

<<<<<<<<Cecil replies:

I should note that yawning isn’t always a sign of boredom.

Adelie penguins, for instance, employ yawning as part of their courtship ritual. The happy couples face off amid the ice floes and the males engage in what is described as an “ecstatic display,” their beaks open wide and their faces pointed skyward.

It may be, therefore, that when your entry upon the scene inspires a round of uncontrollable yawning, you have merely stumbled onto a gaggle of Adelie penguins in disguise, who are signaling their powerful erotic longing for you. A slim hope, admittedly, but any port in a storm.

As for the larger question of why yawns are catching, nobody really knows. Fact is, we don’t know why people yawn, period.

It was long believed you yawned when there was too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen in your blood. A part of your brain called the brain stem detected this and triggered the yawn reflex. Your mouth stretched wide and you inhaled deeply, shooting a jolt of oxygen into the lungs and thence to the bloodstream.

Subsequently, you exhaled a lot of CO2. Often you’d stretch while yawning, which seemed to temporarily improve circulation. You yawned and stretched a lot more when you got tired because your breathing slowed down.

Or so people thought. In recent years, though, a few radicals have said the preceding is all malarkey. Who knows, they say, maybe we yawn because it’s too warm in the room.

Cecil isn’t about to settle the issue here, and he doesn’t need to. We merely observe that whatever yawn-inducing conditions prevail for you also apply to your friends.

If you’re out late in some crowded dive, you’re probably all tired, all warm under the collar, and all breathing the same stale air. You’re probably all on the verge of a yawn, too, and the power of suggestion from seeing one person do it is enough to push everybody else over the edge.

Adults rarely catch a case of the yawns from a child or animal, which tends to corroborate this idea.

Children usually have different sleep schedules and respiration rates from adults, so you would expect them to yawn at different times. Animals, on the other hand, often yawn not for physiological reasons but as a display of hostility, to which humans are evidently unresponsive.

Sounds plausible, ja? Yeah, just like Oliver North. But when it comes to these age-old questions, one feels obliged to take a stab.


I asked this question about ten days ago, that my son will yawn, and then so will I. Though HE doesn’t yawn, when I do, KIDS!! :smiley:

UncleBeer gave me this link, and I don’t know how to do it back for you, so I just copied it instead.


“Um, according to who? Nothing more than a high brow troll, though occasionally the bi polar personality swung in a constructive direction on innocuous topics.” Omniscient

I agree! I did an experiment with my cat and she would yawn after I did. And some people say cats don’t pay attention.