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The Uncommon Life, Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Are Yawns Contagious?

June 29, 2015

“Don’t do it,” you warn your drowsy coworker. They yawn and it’s all over. Yawning has many triggers, such as boredom, sleepiness, and even temperature. Studies also show that we will sometimes yawn to draw in brain-soothing ambient air through the nose and mouth. All that aside, yawns are pretty universally contagious. Yawning feels pretty great, so why not join in? Some studies have even shown contagious yawning after just being shown a photo of someone yawning. But why? Scientists are stumped, which can only lead to some fun speculation. It’s currently believed that they are indeed an evolutionary trait whose original purpose has faded out, but because there’s no negative affect, there’s no pressure to get rid of it. Let the theories fly on what evolutionary advantage they once held…

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