It often happens that one develops the urge to yawn after seeing another person yawning within close proximity. This is referred to as contagious yawning.


A study conducted by experts at the University of Nottingham shows that contagious yawning is triggered involuntarily when we observe another person yawn.

According to the study, it is a common form of echophenomena — the automatic imitation of another’s words (echolalia) or actions (echopraxia).

The study says contagious yawning is not limited to humans as animals like chimpanzees and dogs also have the propensity do it.


The researchers carried out the study by recruiting 36 adults who viewed video clips showing someone else yawning and were instructed to resist the act.

From the results, it was found that the ability to resist yawning when someone else near us yawns is limited.

Georgina Jackson, professor of cognitive neuropsychology at the Institute of Mental Health, explained the findings of the research.


“This research has shown that the ‘urge’ is increased by trying to stop yourself. Using electrical stimulation we were able to increase excitability and in doing so increase the propensity for contagious yawning. In Tourettes if we could reduce the excitability we might reduce the tics and that’s what we are working on.”

The study was published in the academic journal of Current Biology.

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