People with psychopathic tendencies are less prone to ‘contagious yawning’, a new study finds.
Yawning after seeing someone else yawn is linked to empathy and bonding.
But psychopaths are selfish, manipulative, fearless, domineering and, critically, lack empathy.
Mr Brian Rundle, the study’s first author, said:
“You may yawn, even if you don’t have to.
We all know it and always wonder why.
I thought, ‘If it’s true that yawning is related to empathy, I’ll bet that psychopaths yawn a lot less.’
So I put it to the test.”
The study found that people with psychopathic tendencies were less likely to yawn when they saw someone else yawning.
Mr Rundle said:
“The take-home lesson is not that if you yawn and someone else doesn’t, the other person is a psychopath.
A lot of people didn’t yawn, and we know that we’re not very likely to yawn in response to a stranger we don’t have empathetic connections with.
But what we found tells us there is a neurological connection — some overlap — between psychopathy and contagious yawning.
This is a good starting point to ask more questions.”
The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (Rundle et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Yawn image from Shutterstock