Why Most People Catch Contagious Yawns, But Psychopaths Don’t


We’ve all been there – someone near us lets out a big old yawn and, no matter how hard we screw up our faces and try to resist the inevitable, within moments we’re yawning too.

You’ve probably wondered why yawning is so contagious, especially since it seems to happen even if you’re not tired, and a new study has finally shed some light on the issue.

Psychology Today shared the fascinating piece of research, and the answer to the age old question also reveals why people defined as ‘psychopaths’ don’t experience the same phenomenon.

The study revealed that empathy is one of the key factors which leads to people catching yawns.

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Given that one of the primary personality traits of psychopaths is a lack of empathy, it stands to reason that people defined as such would be impervious to following their peers’ yawning lead.

The study comes courtesy of researchers at Baylor University, who had 135 subjects take a test called the ‘Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised’ (PPI-R), before putting them through a contagious yawn experiment, which sounds amazing.

The results showed that the ‘cold-heartedness’ part of the psychology scale was significantly related to whether the person yawned – if they were more cold-hearted, they were less likely to catch a yawn.

So, basically, if you start yawning and your partner or friend doesn’t follow suit, you might want to have a quick think about how well you know them!