Yawning is often involuntary and the more you don’t want to do it, the more you will!
We’ve all been there: a class, a meeting… you see someone discreetly yawn out of the corner of your eye. You know it’s coming, you tell yourself not to do it, but you just can’t help yourself. Before you can help it, you’re letting out a long, slow (maybe loud), yawn.
It’s a vicious cycle that will circulate around the room, over and over again. Yawning is contagious and in most public circumstances, it’s considered rude. It indicates boredom or exhaustion, but much of the time, we yawn because we saw someone else do it, not because of how we feel inside. And now we know, the more we try to stop ourselves, the worse it will get!
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Maybe it’s time to give ourselves permission to yawn. A new study from Current Biology indicates that when an individual fights off the need to yawn, they end up yawning more frequently. But when those same individuals give themselves permission to yawn, they don’t find themselves yawning nearly as much.
Highlights from this study include:
- Instruction to resist increases the urge to yawn and alters yawn expression
- Instruction to resist does not alter the individual propensity for yawning
Read the full study: A Neural Basis for Contagious Yawning
Contagious yawning is a form of echophenomena, the automatic imitation of a person’s words or actions—a characteristic also seen in conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, autism, and Tourette syndrome. – Time
The study followed 36 adults who watched videos of various individuals yawning. As they watched the videos, they were instructed when to try and resist the urge to yawn, and when to give themselves permission to yawn as much as they wanted. During the times when they were asked to resist, they found their need to yawn was that much greater; indicating the act of resisting can only perpetuate the problem.