Try not to yawn.


| 4 Comments
One thing I could never quite understand is why we have this need to yawn every time we see someone yawning. Even when I'm not tired, I have to yawn when I happen to see someone yawning. So why do we have this desire to copy someone when they yawn?

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We all are programmed with this unconscious desire to copy what we see someone else doing, half the time we aren't even aware that we're copying their actions. When you do realize you're yawning it's usually beneath the area of reason and purposeful action. Recently the Finnish government funded a brain scanning study that found that when we see someone yawn, it processes through our brain but bypasses the part of the brain known for consciously analyzing actions. The neurons in this part of the brain are typically turned on as we learn so we are able to understand and remember how to do things that we see others doing. So does our brain think yawning is a vital action we need to be able to do so it makes us yawn?

When we yawn, we breathe in a lot of air, making it circulate around in our blood stream so we can wake up a little bit when we begin to fall asleep in class, right?  WRONG! This is a total myth according to psychology professor, Steven Platek, there is no evidence that yawning can affect your oxygen levels in the bloodstream, blood pressure, or heart rate. Yawning may be a thermoregulatory (a large word that means it keeps your body at the right temperature) mechanism according to Andre Gallup who is a psychology professor at SUNY College. In a study, he found that if you hold a hot or cold pack to someone's forehead it influences how often they yawned when they saw videos of people yawning. A warm pack led to people yawning 41% of the time and a cold pack led to only 9%.


Steven Platek also says that yawning is contagious in about 60-70% of people, he found that this copying of someone yawning occurs in people who score high measures of empathic understanding. Using MRI scans he found that during the contagious yawn, two areas of the brain are involved the posterior cingulated and the precuneus. This yawning phenomenon has also been observed in chimpanzees an animal that is also characterized by their social nature. 


While yawning isn't exactly the number one concern scientists have right now, it still is something to think about. When we see someone yawn, our brain makes us open our mouth and yawn, without us even knowing it!  

4 Comments

I actually just yawned twice just reading this! I always believed the myth so I was glad you mentioned it not being true. I found this website claiming anxiety causes yawning http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/yawning. I notice sometimes when I talk to people I mimic the way they stand without even noticing so I wonder what other common specific motions we particularly copy without any thinking?

it is funny because while reading this post I yawned. I think at an early age, we were all taught to mimic what we see. I have a one year old cousin that does this constantly. It is apart of our learning process. I guess watching someone yawn would mean we need to yawn, too. It makes sense that we copy this motion, but it is weird to think about because most of the time we do not realize we are evening doing it. Here is a link if your interested on finding out more about why we yawn.
http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/question572.htm

A couple of months ago my friend and i came into a heated debate about if yawning was at all even useful to the human body, or if it was an outdated relic from our ancestors. At the end of the day we stumbled across this very interesting article. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/health/14yawn.html?_r=0

the article basically states that the scientific community has no idea of the actual purpose of yawning.

its pretty funny article it kinda states that there has been very little experimental evidence found on the topic.

Yawning is definitely one of those weird things that you do not really think about, it just happens. This is a topic that actually gets brought up a lot I think. People "pass along" yawns and then usually one person says "Why does that happen?!" Well after reading this post and doing more research on it, I can answer it! Slower breathing, boredom, and a way to increase heart rate to feel more awake are all theories of why yawning happens. I thought yawning was just caused because you are tired, which is true. But I never knew it could be a way to stretch muscle and even joints.

This is a funny video, and I yawned within the first two seconds of it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9vztQ7Z9sQ

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