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Research Article

Individual Variation in Contagious Yawning Susceptibility Is Highly Stable and Largely Unexplained by Empathy or Other Known Factors

  • Alex J. Bartholomew,

    Affiliation: Center for Human Genome Variation, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America

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  • Elizabeth T. Cirulli mail

    etc3@duke.edu

    Affiliation: Center for Human Genome Variation, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America

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  • Published: March 14, 2014
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091773

Reader Comments (1)

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Reduced susceptibility to contagious yawning may be learned?

Posted by Camelopardalis on 15 Mar 2014 at 14:36 GMT

The propensity for contagious yawning may reasonably be associated with empathy /genetics/etal., but resistance to actual responsive yawns may be a life time learned overide of the response. In 60+ years of life, it has been an observation that on some occasions I can consciously choose not to sympathetically yawn moreso than my children. One way to test this hypothesis may be to check contagious yawning with dogs versus their ages, since they may not have social pressures to learn not to exhibit sympathetic yawning.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Reduced susceptibility to contagious yawning may be learned?

Camelopardalis replied to Camelopardalis on 15 Mar 2014 at 15:24 GMT

I should have been more explicit that the yawn suppression with age may be subconsciously learned. The observational fact that I have conciuosly developed some ability to suppress sympathetic yawns (presumably due to lifetime peer pressure) shows that my subconscious could have access to a similar suppressive process.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: Reduced susceptibility to contagious yawning may be learned?

etc3 replied to Camelopardalis on 18 Mar 2014 at 23:06 GMT

An interesting theory. There is definitely social pressure to not be rude and yawn, and the more cognizant of the fact that you are responding to someone's yawn, the more you will try to inhibit it. There certainly could be subconscious learning not to have contagious yawns as you age. However, there has been a previous study showing that spontaneous yawns also decrease as you age, so it may just be that overall we yawn less as we get older.

No competing interests declared.