Is Yawning Contagious? Here Are Some Facts — Just Try To Get Through Without Yawning.
Is yawning contagious? Well, judging by how many times I yawned just looking at photos to attached to this article, I'm going to go with yes. And it turns out that science is going to back me up on that assertion, but what's most interesting is that "social yawning" or yawning because someone else is yawning, actually has nothing to do with the purpose of yawning. A new video from AsapSCIENCE goes over these and other facts about yawning that will... well, they'll probably make you yawn, but they're interesting, I swear!
So what is the purpose of yawning? Well, for years scientists thought it had something to do with reducing exhaustion by drawing in extra oxygen. But in reality, yawning serves the same purpose as your laptop fan — it keeps your head from overheating. Weird as it may sound, yawning is what helps your brain stay cool. Much like computers, brains work best at a certain temperature, and when you yawn, it increases your heart rate and blood flow, which in turn helps keep your brain cool.
So why do we yawn when we're tired? Because exhaustion and sleep deprivation make your brain hotter. As for why we yawn when other people yawn, that one has more to do with empathy than with practical, physiological reasons.
Social yawning begins when children are about four or five, around the time that people begin to develop empathy. (In other words, all three-year-olds are sociopaths. I knew it!) People are also more likely to yawn when they see someone they know yawning as opposed to seeing a stranger yawn, and autistic children are less likely to engage in social yawning. But still, unless you're a penguin, in which case yawning is a mating ritual — seriously, penguins? — then the true purpose of yawning isn't social at all.
Which doesn't mean it's any easier to make it through the Yawn-O-Meter without yawning. In fact, if you made it through this article without yawning than you have more restraint than I. Or you're a sociopath. Either way.
You can also learn even more facts about yawning here: