When someone around you yawns, it’s likely you will feel the urge to yawn, too, especially if that person is a family member or loved one. You may even notice your dog yawning when you yawn.
Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University, says, “just the way that other people might cry in response to somebody crying, may laugh as a response to somebody laughing, yawning is no different than any of these imitative behaviors.”
Yawning is indeed contagious and we pick up on the behavior from those around us because of our mirror neurons, which are activated empathically. Babies who are still developing their brains don’t have the same response.
“It’s not until we hit the age of four that we end up yawning in response to other people and that’s a signal that we have developed empathy,” Varma says.
In a HealthBusters first, this myth is confirmed! Or, technically speaking, this isn’t a myth at all (yawn).