The study of yawning is anything but boring. There are many different types of yawns, we yawn when we are tired, we yawn when we are bored, we even yawn at the sight of someone else’s or the thought of a yawn! But why do we actually yawn?
There are a number of theories as to why we yawn, however scientists are yet to come to any agreement, so we are still none the wiser as to a definitive answer to why we do indeed yawn. Scientists are still continuously conducting research on the function or functions of a yawn. A recent study suggests that yawning could be connected to the brain’s temperature, so it is thought that when our brain passes its stable temperature we yawn to cool the brain. This is only one of many theories and does not explain contagious yawn.
One theory that describes contagious yawning comes from an evolutionary psychologist, Gordon Gallup, and he best describes a yawn as a primitive empathetic mechanism related to mental state attribution. Yawning activates the motor imitation, empathy and social behavioural parts of the brain. So when you see someone yawn, neurons are released causing you to feel what that person is experience and making them perform the action even if you do not actually need to.
It is bizarre to think that something as familiar to us as yawning is also a mystery to us.