MONTREAL – When someone near you yawns, do you feel the urge to do the same?
For most people, it’s difficult to hold back the urge to yawn right along with them.
In fact, even reading or thinking about yawning is sometimes enough to trigger you (did you just yawn?).
A new study published by Baylor University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience suggests that psychopathic individuals are less likely to react when others yawn.
According to the study, psychopathy is characterized by selfish, manipulative, impulsive, fearless, callous, domineering and antisocial behaviour.
The study also focused on another important trait associated with psychopathy: a lack of empathy.
How exactly does this relate to yawning?
Contagious yawning is a phenomenon that is strongly correlated to empathy.
In their research, Brian Rundle, Vanessa Vaughn and Matthew Stanford asked 153 students, both male and female, to complete the Psychopathic Personality Inventory questionnaire.
The PPI-R is a self-assessment that measures psychopathic traits in adults, including coldheartedness, Machiavellianism, egocentricity, callousness and impulsivity.
After completing the questionnaire, students watched videos of people making different facial expressions.
“We found that emotion-related startle amplitudes were predictive of frequency of contagious yawning,” wrote the study’s authors.
That means those who scored in the PPI-R subcategory “Coldheartedness” didn’t yawn when the person on screen did.
The more coldhearted (and therefore, less empathetic) a subject was, the less likely they were to react.
So, the big question is – how many times did you yawn while reading this article?