Yawning toons make an ape gape

Sep 08, 2009
This combo of handout pictures released by Japanese professor at the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, shows a chimpanzee yawning after being shown videos of other chimps yawning at a laboratory in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, in 2003. Computer animations of yawning chimpanzees provoke the same irresistible grins in real chimps, according to an unusual study.

Computer animations of yawning chimpanzees provoke the same irresistible grins in real chimps, according to an unusual study released Wednesday.

"Contagious yawning" is well known among humans, and earlier studies have shown that chimps are not immune to its suggestive influence either.

But the new research is the first to show that images seen on a monitor can provoke teeth-baring yawns in non-human primates too.

Matthew Campbell and colleagues of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia divided 24 chimps ranging in age from nine to 43 years old into pairs.

Each pair was exposed to animated chimps in two short 3-D videos on a 48-centimetre (19-inch) screen. Only one of the videos showed the animals yawning.

The chimps may doing something deeper than simple imitation, for they may have an emotional tie with the cartoon character, the researchers believe.

"Contagious yawning is controlled by the same mechanism that makes emotions contagious," the study notes. "Our results strongly suggest an empathetic response to the animations."

The technique could provide an important tool for exploring and cognition, the study adds.

The study is published in a British scientific journal, .

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Purring tempo, sliding notes grab cats' attention

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Yawning seen to cool the brain

Jul 04, 2007

The newest theory put forward about human yawning from the State University of New York at Albany claims it's because yawning cools the brain.

Survey: People know much about chimps

Dec 11, 2007

A Humane Society of the United States survey determined that people know more than they thought about chimpanzees, including the fact they are endangered.

Study: Chimps don't care about friends

Oct 26, 2005

University of California-Los Angeles scientists say helping others is apparently a uniquely human habit -- or, at least, not a habit shared by chimpanzees.

Recommended for you

China's latest survey finds increase in wild giant pandas

Feb 28, 2015

(AP)—Wild giant pandas in China are doing well. According to a census by China's State Forestry Administration, the panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in ...

A molecular compass for bird navigation

Feb 27, 2015

Each year, the Arctic Tern travels over 40,000 miles, migrating nearly from pole to pole and back again. Other birds make similar (though shorter) journeys in search of warmer climes. How do these birds manage ...

100,000 bird samples online

Feb 27, 2015

The Natural History Museum (NHM) in Oslo has a bird collection of international size. It is now available online.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birthmark
not rated yet Sep 08, 2009
Yep I yawned when I seen the monkey yawning. Heard the sympathy area in your brain lights up when someone yawns.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.