Contagious yawning among total strangers is very rare, according to a new study. People are more likely to yawn when they see somebody yawning, if the other person is family member or friend. A recent study shows that yawning is a sign of social empathy and emotional bonds between family and friends.
In this study 109 adults from different continents were observed in their natural settings to record the factors that affect or influence contagious yawning. During the study period the researchers observed and recorded different factors when a participant yawned followed by another within a gap of three minutes.
The results show that social bonds were very important in making the yawns contagious, much more than the social situation and nationality. Contagious yawning was more likely to be shared by family members, friends and acquaintances. The likelihood of a person sharing a yawn with a total stranger was found to be very less.
Researchers suggest that contagious yawning may be explained by human biology. Seeing a person yawn activates a number of regions in the brain that are related to movement, imitation, social behavior, and empathy. When a person sees another yawning person, who is a friend, family member of an acquaintance, these networks are over stimulated leading a prompt response — yawning.