Am I Boring You?
If there is one thing I frequently do, it is to yawn. Hence, I was often asked whether I was bored by a lecturer or meeting. Not just non-verbally through a stare with questioning eyes, but verbally for everyone to secretly enjoy too. That got me thinking about what is making us yawn in any way? Can we really be judged or judge other people for yawning? Is it really that contagious? Read all about it in this blog.
Why Do We Yawn?
Let me start off by giving you some great news: yawning is not linked to boredom or tiredness! According to scientists, we yawn in order to cool our brain and help us think clearer. By yawning we inhale a big gulp of air that our bodies use to cool the blood in our brain delivered by an increased heart rate and blood flow as a result of the jaw’s stretching. Think of it as a laptop that is starting to get overheated, making the fan to become noisier in an attempt to cool off the laptop’s “brain”.
Before you start criticizing that we definitely yawn more when tired: sleep deprivation and exhaustion are known to increase brain temperatures. By yawning, we keep our brain working at the right temperatures. Pfieuw, that will make a nice comeback next time someone feels the urge to judge me again.
But Why Am I Contagious?
Our bodies, strangely enough, seem to copy yawning behavior. While there are many Google finds when you search for “yawn contagious”, the hits seem to dance around the topic and there is no commonly accepted theory out there. The answer seems to be: we don’t know and it remains a scientific mystery. Speculations on the other hand include:
- Mimicking behavior as smiling and crying for instance,
- Coordination of alertness levels within groups, and
- A byproduct of empathy to maintain relationships.
Overall, yawning is not contagious for everyone. Children before the age of four do not yawn. Neither do people with autism, where your social interaction is impaired. So far, I have not yawned once since writing this article. I have read about it for a while and seen multiple do it now on my screen. I got nothing. At least the internet hasn’t written me off just yet: “Not “catching” a yawn isn’t evidence for psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies.” However, the internet does have it out for me tonight. Let’s say they are still deciding on whether I have a behavioral condition or am simply “aging”. Not sure which one is worse. Turning 26 apparently has really made me “older”, as with age the likelihood of contagious yawning decreases. Studies show that 82% of people under 25 contagiously yawned and just 60% of people ages 25 to 49.
Conclusion, we must not judge those who yawn or those who do not copy the behavior. You are not bored or boring someone else, but you are cooling down your brain. Let’s just say that actually his, her or your brain was working so hard that it simply needed to cool off. Let’s even go so far as to say that maybe their brains are working so hard to comprehend what you are saying that they need to some cooling? Also, many will feel a primal need to copy while others may not feel the need to follow. Do we really care? At least the less empathic don’t have to spare your feelings when you are (non-)verbally accusing them of being uninterested, as they at least don’t feel the urge to join the yawn fest.
What are your thoughts and experiences with yawning? Drop it like it’s hot in the comment section below!