Why yawning is contagious in bonobos

Why yawning is contagious in bonobos
Yawning is contagious in bonobos. Credit: Elisa Demuru

Being socially close to another bonobo is more likely to make bonobo apes yawn in response to the other's yawns, according to research published November 14 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Elisabetta Palagi and Elisa Demuru from the University of Pisa, Italy.

The researchers found that yawning in bonobos is more contagious when individuals are strongly bonded to one another as kin or close friends. They also found that yawn contagion was higher when individuals were more relaxed, but occurred in every context when the first yawner was a senior member of the group.

Previous research has found similar results in humans, showing that a person is more likely to yawn when family or close friends do, rather than in response to a stranger's yawning. Though this social component of yawn contagion is well-known, its origins and significance are still being studied.

Yawn contagion may be a way for social groups to unconsciously communicate and coordinate activities, but unlike other forms of unconscious communication, has a unique emotional component, since it appears to occur more frequently between closely bonded individuals. The authors say, "Though we are still far from a clear demonstration of a link between contagion and empathy, the importance of in shaping this phenomenon in suggests that a basic form of empathy may play a role in modulating yawning behavior."


Explore further

Those who stay together yawn together

More information: Demuru E, Palagi E (2012) In Bonobos Yawn Contagion Is Higher among Kin and Friends. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49613. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049613
Journal information: PLoS ONE

Citation: Why yawning is contagious in bonobos (2012, November 14) retrieved 13 December 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-11-contagious-bonobos.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments