The Natural Response That Psychopaths Tend To Lack

The connection between psychopathy and contagious yawning.

Psychopaths display less empathy, which is why they are less prone to this normal behaviour.

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).

Yawn image from Shutterstock

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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

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, 2013) and several ebooks.