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Yawning, a seemingly mundane act, has long been a subject of scientific fascination. In Psychology Today reporting, they dive into the science behind contagious yawning, shedding light on the emotional bonds shared between humans and their four-legged companions.

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Traditionally viewed as a mechanism to maintain alertness and wakefulness, yawning’s contagious nature extends beyond the physiological need for oxygen, venturing into the realms of psychology and neurology. Contagious yawning among humans is well-documented and often linked to empathy and social bonding, with prevalence observed among close associates.

Initially met with skepticism, the concept of contagious yawning between humans and dogs gained credence through a 2008 study conducted by the University of London. This research demonstrated that dogs could indeed catch yawns from their human counterparts, with an astonishing 72 percent reciprocating—an occurrence more frequent than observed in humans.

Results from the University of London study suggest the presence of empathy in dogs. Individuals prone to contagious yawning tend to score higher on empathy assessments, while the absence of this behavior in individuals with certain forms of autism further supports the connection between empathy and yawning.

Subsequent research delved deeper into this cross-species phenomenon. A study published in the journal Animal Cognition revealed that dogs were more likely to yawn in response to their humans’ yawns than those of strangers, indicating that a certain level of emotional connection is necessary for contagious yawning to occur.

While the majority of studies Support the contagious yawning-empathy hypothesis, a 2020 study reanalyzing data from six previous studies found conflicting evidence. The study claimed “no evidence that dogs display either a familiarity or gender bias in contagious yawning.” However, debates arise regarding the relevance of applying human social constructs, such as gender, to dogs.

Despite conflicting perspectives, the mechanism behind contagious yawning likely involves the mirror neuron system. Responsible for empathy and understanding others’ actions and intentions, this part of the brain activates the same regions when observing someone yawn. The presence of a similar system in dogs suggests a shared neurological basis for this intriguing behavior.

We encourage everyone thinking of getting a pet to adopt instead of shop. Read more resources about adopting animals on One Green Planet, including 7 Reasons to Adopt Your Next Furry Best Friend5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Adopt a Pet, and These Heartwarming Before and After Pictures of Adopted Rescue Animals Will Make Your Day! Read tips for pet adoptions and what to consider before adopting an animal. We recommend using these apps to find shelter dogs near you!

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