25 September 2007


On the way home last night I was listening to NPR. Their story intro started by saying that by the time they were done with the story more than half of us would participate, and even more than that would feel compelled to. There is nothing better than waking up from an afternoon nap, and taking a deep breath in, opening your mouth as wide as it will go, stretching your arms upward, and letting out a great big Yawn! Yawning seems to be a universal mammal trait. My cats are some of the best yawners out there. Even my parrot Ody can give a great jaw splitting yawn. Babies, still in utero yawn. But, why are they so contagious? Little is known about this, and for that matter why do we yawn at all? Some say it is a need for oxygen, or to get rid of carbon dioxide. Others say it is an old intimidation tactic from the days of the caveman. Others say we do it when we are bored, or drowsy. While the Why? of yawning is still unknown a group of college students and a professor did a study to try to find out why they were so contagious, and if there a way to control how contagious a yawn was. They did an initial control study where they simply showed a person yawning to a group. Fifty-five percent of the viewers yawned. Almost 85% said they felt compelled to yawn. These are pretty big numbers. They then showed the same case studies with the yawners covering their mouths. The results? The same. No change at all. They changed the routine a great deal, showing only the image without sound, showing only the mouth with no eyes, or the upper face and sound only. There was no difference in the results. If they simply talked about yawning and then heard a yawn nearly the same amount of people would yawn. They even tried the experience between different mammal species. Dogs and cats were just as likely to yawn as their human counterparts, even when it was another species that yawned first. Whatever the cause of this seemingly unconscious act, nothing beats a good long yawn in my book!

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