yawning...are you?

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    Aug 15, 2007 8:43 PM GMT


    Scientists find reason for contagious yawning
    People who feel more empathy are more prone to it, study finds
    Updated: 7:40 a.m. MT Aug 15, 2007
    LONDON - Showing empathy can make for a lot of yawning.

    A study of autistic children has bolstered evidence that people who identify better with others are more prone to contagious yawning, Japanese researchers say.

    Scientists have long known that one yawn often leads others to follow suit but what triggers the phenomenon is not as clear, said Atsushi Senju, a researcher at the University of London who worked on the study.

    Some believe it is simply a reflex. Others suggest the same mechanisms in the brain that make people feel empathy also cause them to yawn when they see others doing the same, he said.

    In the study the team tested the reaction of autistic children and normal children when watching video clips of people yawning and then simply moving their mouths.

    The researchers found the children with autism, a developmental condition that severely affects social interaction and communication including empathy, yawned less than other children during clips of people yawning.

    Both groups of children yawned the same amount when watching the video of people only moving their mouths, showing that empathy was the key, Senju told Reuters.

    “It supports the claim that contagious yawning is based on the capacity for empathy,” the researchers wrote.

    Contagious yawning is seen in only a few other primates and studies have suggested the behavior has played an evolutionary role in helping groups avoid danger by keeping animals awake and alert.

    The researchers said the findings offer a jumping-off point to investigate the nature of social and communication impairment in those with autism.

    “Further studies are required to investigate the relation between contagious yawning and other symptoms of (autism) such as empathy, imitation and/or face fixation,” the researchers wrote.

    The study is published in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters on Wednesday
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    Aug 16, 2007 1:43 AM GMT
    Interesting food for thought.

    I nearly always catch the yawns when someone near me (or even on the phone) yawns themselves.

    My attempts at yoga classes have always failed because the more I relax, the more I seem to notice the negative moods of people around me. I meditate daily, sometimes several times daily, and always alone for similar reasons.

    Makes me wonder if there is some related mechanism at play.

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    Aug 16, 2007 2:23 AM GMT
    There are already studies and theories on "empathy genes."

    This was discovered that some primates, when just watching some other members of the group eat, will have the same areas of the brin stimulated as if they are actually eating with all the same physiological responses. This is not just "imagining" eating, but having experience the same taste, smell, and texture response in the brain...

    Some animals had more exact brain and physiological response as they are actually eating, some only to a small degree. They theorize as the amount of "empahty genes" present in some members of the primates.

    They attempted to link this to other sensory experiences such as sexual arousal, pain, etc..

    I guess that explains how some cannot watch physically violent images, or how some are so turned on by porno...