Contagious yawning and canine empathy

From the BBC:

Until recently it was thought that only humans and their primate cousins displayed contagious yawning, but now it’s been shown that dogs display the behaviour as well.

Yawning, although sometimes a response to extreme stress, is more often a sign of tiredness; but the reason for why yawning is catching is not fully understood.

There is evidence that autistic individuals are less inclined to yawn into response to another human yawning, suggesting that contagious yawning betrays an ability to empathise, explained Birbeck’s Dr Atsushi Senju.

Dr Senju and his team wondered whether dogs – that are very skilled at reading human social cues – could read the human yawn signal, and set out to test the yawning capabilities of 29 canines.

There’s video on the BBC page.



Categories: Science, Sociology

Tags: ,

3 replies

  1. Well der… as I dog owner I noticed this when I was about eight.

  2. Truly, it amazing the stuff people will do “research” on. I once read a study that showed mothers could tell whether their babies were the right temperature and adjusted the amount of clothes they were wearing if they weren’t, all without the aid of a thermometer. I was like, duh.

  3. It can sometimes be useful to point at peer-reviewed research the next time someone dismisses something as “just an old wives’ tale” or “seeing what you want to see” though.

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