Saturday, March 15, 2003

EMPATHY MAKES APES' YAWNING CONTAGIOUS

You Yawn, We All Yawn--And Empathy May Explain Why

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Why does just glimpsing a stranger's yawn trigger yawning in others? One group of researchers lays the blame on a very human trait: empathy.

Dr. Steven M. Platek at Drexel University in Philadelphia and his colleagues found that people who are prone to so-called contagious yawning also tend to score highly on tests that measure levels of empathy, or fellow-feeling with others....

Only humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans are able to show signs of empathy, he noted, and this trait may confer certain advantages to the species: namely, binding social groups through their feelings for each other, and bringing everyone closer together.

Based on the findings from the current study, Platek and his colleagues suggest that chimps and orangutans may also engage in contagious yawning....