Your Yawn Can Determine If You're A Psychopath, In Case You Weren't Sure Already

You don’t have to idolize Dexter or obsess over Patrick Bateman to have psychopathic tendencies; according to a new study, the littlest things may reveal the truth about a person’s psychological profile. Researchers have identified how your yawn can determine if you're a psychopath, so you may want to pay closer attention to this involuntary action. Psychopathic tendencies are not tied to the length of the yawn, the sound you make, or whether or not you cover your mouth — it’s when you yawn that counts.

Psychopathy is defined by a lack of empathy, and that is one of the core principles that make yawns so very contagious. Researchers at Baylor University found that the less empathetic a person is, the less likely they are to “catch a yawn.” In the study, 135 college students filled out the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R), a personality test that identifies and measures psychopathic traits in the individual (selfishness, coldheartedness, impulsivity, and fearlessness to name a few). The participants then were put through a contagious yawn experiment, where they watched 10-second videos of different human expressions — including people yawning — and electrodes monitored their facial response.

The findings published in Personality and Individual Differences showed that higher a participant scored on the personality test, the less likely they were to yawn along with the video. In other words, those who lack emotion, guilt, or regard for the feelings of others are basically immune to contagious yawning as well.


Humans, primates, and even dogs find yawning contagious, and copy the yawns of those whom they are close to. Though we have been yawning since before we were born, social yawning begins in children between the ages of four to five — along the same trajectory as the development of empathetic behavior. This simple action helps people bond and communicate through mirrored behavior, and studies have found that children with autism spectrum disorder yawn less in response to videos of others yawning.

You can probably already tell if your S.O. or boss is a narcissist or sadist without this yawn test, but it can certainly be used to confirm your suspicions. If you are wondering if you may have a little psychopathy running through you, watch this video from Asap Science to see just how long you can last before reflexively inhaling deeply along with everyone else:

AsapSCIENCE on YouTube

If you didn't manage to yawn during the three and a half straight minutes of watching people yawning, that doesn't mean you need to turn yourself into the cops before for you go on a killing spree. The study's lead author, Brian Rundle, says that diagnosing a psychopath is a complex process, and this research is simply a helpful hint. He adds that even if you do fall on the psychopathic spectrum, you're not all bad. “People high in psychopathic traits may just be hard to connect with, it doesn’t mean they are malicious individuals,” Rundle told Today.

I watched the video and tried my best to hold back my yawns, lasting an entire minute and nine seconds. After I clicked off the video I spent the next 10 minutes continuously yawning as if to make up for all the lost yawns, which according to the study means I'm an empathetic person... or I could just be tired.

Images: Asique Alam/Unsplash, giphy, AsapSCIENCE/YouTube