Show Details

Yawn Roundup

September 5, 2014

Tracing the roots of yawning and empathy.



Contagious yawning and empathy. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists suspect that contagious yawning, in which we yawn when we see someone else yawn is connected with empathy, since it’s triggered more readily when we see yawning friends and relatives than yawning strangers. In the journal PLOSone, University of Tokyo researchers report that members of wolf packs also experience contagious yawning, and it happens most often between wolves with emotional connections. They see this not only as evidence that yawning is empathy related, but also that other social animals, like wolves, are capable of empathy.

In other news, researchers placed GPS devices on sheep and sheep dogs and worked out the simple mathematical rules that let a single dog herd up to a hundred individual sheep. It’s information they say could be helpful not only in controlling animal herds, but also in coordinating the movements of groups of robots. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.