Here’s a fun experiment: How long can you last without yawning (and why do we yawn in the first place)? Did you yawn upon reading the title?
Yawning is a fascinating thing that one may often do when they need to catch some shut-eye, but what about those times when a yawn is caused by seeing someone else yawn? It is known that yawning can be contagious, but did you know that a variety of factors play into its “contagiousness”?
Our bodies work to maintain homeostasis (stability), and this includes maintaining a stable body temperature. Our brains likewise work best at a certain temperature, and yawning is thought to cool your brain via processes such as the increase in heart rate and blood flow. With this, whether or not we yawn when someone else does may also be associated our own amount of empathy, the ability to feel or understand what another is feeling. On the neuroscience side, within our brains are cells called mirror neurons. These mirror neurons activate when we observe an action performed by someone else, and may also cause us to yawn when we see someone else yawn.