Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's because you're afraid someone else is stealing all your air

When Stella yawns, Rocky yawns. When Rocky yawns, Stella yawns. When I yawn, Rocky yawns and then Stella yawns. Just writing the word "yawn" so many times makes me want to yawn.

It's funny that this deeply rooted, unsolved mystery of human behaviour - contagious yawning - extends to dogs. Chimps experience contagious yawning as well but that's more understandable as they aren't that genetically different from us. But dogs?

From The Independent, "Why do we yawn?"
By Steve Connor, Science Editor, Thursday, 16 August 2007

"The latest study, however, pinpoints the fact that contagious yawning appears to involve the very human trait of emotional empathy. Humans, uniquely, are able to imagine what someone else is thinking or feeling. This is at the heart of empathy, and it is a trait that autistic children unfortunately lack - and so may explain why they are immune to the infectiousness of yawning."

If this hypothesis is correct, contagious yawning is a sign of empathy. That would go a long way to proving that there is an instinctual, emotional bond between humans and dogs and that dogs are able to imagine what their humans are feeling.

So the next time you need a shoulder to cry on, your dog might be your best bet.


Caveat said...

I always thought that sympathetic yawning was a sign of courtesy.

When someone yawns, they are quite vulnerable.

If someone yawned, then by yawning with them, one would show that they weren't a threat and that everything was expialidocious or something.


Fred said...

So, they're courteous and empathetic. Even better.

Caveat said...

They are indeed.

Let's not forget open-minded, forgiving, optimistic, forthright, diffident and loyal. Good looking, too :>)